Kerry priest compares Covid-19 restrictions to the spirit of the Black and Tans

Fr Gearoid Walsh, who is the parish priest of Ballymacelligott, made the comments in two separate masses live-streamed on Facebook
Kerry priest compares Covid-19 restrictions to the spirit of the Black and Tans

He also asked for “evidence-based research” which linked Covid-19 outbreaks to religious practices. File picture: Getty

A Kerry priest has come under fire after he said the spirit of the "Black and Tans" is still alive and well when highlighting his concerns with the new Covid-19 restrictions.

Fr Gearoid Walsh, who is the parish priest of Ballymacelligott, made the comments in two separate masses live-streamed on Facebook. 

The priest referenced the burning down of the Ballymacelligott presbytery 100 years ago.

He claimed, from the altar, that under new regulations, services provided by the clergy are no longer classified as essential services, and are therefore limited to the 5km boundaries in place. 

However, it understood that priests, and other ministers of religion, are not subject to this, nor have they been at any point since the first restrictions in March.

Fr Walsh made the comments despite advice from local parishioner and Fianna Fáil councillor, Fionnán Fitzgerald, who told the priest that he can travel beyond the 5km limit. Mr Fitzgerald said it was confusion that led to the comments, but he did not think the reference to the Black and Tans was helpful in the current pandemic.

He said: "We are in a pandemic and Government and everybody are doing their very best to ensure peoples safety and health. To compare these efforts to the Black and Tans, or the actions of the Black and Tans, really isn’t fair to the people involved."

'Disruption to worship'

Fr Walsh later doubled down on the reference to the Black and Tans in an interview on Liveline, where he said: "I used the analogy in terms of the disruption to worship. The spirit of the Back and Tans, in terms of the disruption to public life.

“You must realise the significance of that, the burning of the presbytery for the people of this community. How that disrupted life, nearly 100 years ago. Nothing of its kind has disrupted worship since then.” 

He also asked for “evidence-based research” which linked Covid-19 outbreaks to religious practices. It comes as another priest, from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, gave his own scathing attack on the new restrictions.

Fr Seán Mulligan, of Carrickmacross, said in a Mass uploaded on social media this week: "Around 100 people can freely mix and walk through the supermarket, but parishioners cannot sit 2m apart in the church and participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

"There is something gravely wrong with a society where God is not seen as essential. But off-licences and abortion clinics are.

“We now live in the most anti-Christian atheistic country in Europe. The land of saints and scholars is long since gone and has been replaced with a land of apostates and non-believers. When do you ever hear our political leaders speak of God? Never. God is a forbidden subject. 

"A name only to be spoken within the confines of a church building or in the privacy of your own home. He's certainly not welcome in the chambers of Dáil Éireann.”

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