A PARISH priest was threatened at gunpoint by masked burglars who broke into his house demanding cash.
His mobile phone was stolen – but he found it the next morning under a tile in his front garden, protected from the rain.
Fr Arthur O'Neill of St Brigid's Parish in Cabinteely, Co Dublin was left shaken after a weapon which appeared to be a machine gun was put to his face during the frightening episode.
The incident happened shortly after 5am yesterday morning, when Fr O'Neill was woken by his house alarm, having unknowingly slept through the smashing of a small downstairs window.
He received a phone-call from the alarm company but thinking it was a mistake, he told them: "Don't ring the second key holder, I'm at home."
When he put the phone down, he turned around to see "a fellow standing with his face covered, holding a machine gun."
Fr O'Neill said he lost his temper at the intruder.
"I insisted on dressing myself because I was just out of bed," he said. He was taken downstairs where another masked burglar shouted instructions to his partner through the broken window. Both men were in their late 20s, he believes.
"They were looking for money," said Fr O'Neill, adding that he had advised them that they were "barking up the wrong tree".
Initially he thought the machine gun was a replica – but at one point, it was put to his face and he pushed it away.
"At that point, I thought to myself, 'No, this is real,'" he said, adding that the pair had been "very menacing".
The house was ransacked but nothing of value was found by the burglars who were "getting a tad frustrated," Fr O'Neill revealed.With wry humour, the parish priest told how he believes that he "bored" the thieves away, joking that he had launched into a sermon.
"I asked if they wanted to come down to the church but they didn't want to," said Fr O'Neill, who then opened up the front door and "invited them to leave".
The men did so – taking the priest's mobile phone with them. Fr O'Neill then telephoned the gardai who remained with him for the rest of the morning.
Later on, he used his landline to ring his mobile – and discovered that it had been carefully placed outside.
"It just goes to show that nobody is completely bad," said Fr O'Neill.