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Priest punched in head during Mass, court hears

A MAN allegedly punched a priest during Mass after the cleric refused to accept a donation from him, a court heard.

Seamus Doherty (66), who is charged with assault, arrived at St Colmcille's Church in Glendowan, Churchill, Co Donegal, before 8pm Mass was due to start on January 15, 2011.

He went into the sacristy of the church and offered Fr Michael McKeever a donation of cash. The priest refused and went on to start Mass. However, Mr Doherty, of The Rock, Churchill, began to interrupt the ceremony.

He began shouting and standing in the middle aisle of the church, Letterkenny District court was told.

Fr McKeever asked Mr Doherty to stop but he refused and at one stage he pulled a bottle of alcohol from his pocket. The priest asked Mr Doherty to go to the back of the church but the man began swearing at Fr McKeever.

He then began to shout allegations that the clergy were responsible for the suicide of a young local man whose family was present at the Mass.

Fr McKeever, assisted by members of the congregation, eventually went down to Mr Doherty and asked him to leave.

However, Mr Doherty became more aggressive and allegedly punched the priest in the forehead before leaving.

Defence solicitor Frank Dorrian said his client had a problem with alcohol and also had mental health problems.

"His behaviour is irrational . . .by hitting a priest he has now hit rock bottom," he said.

Judge Paul Kelly said: "I have heard this man has problems. It may well be better that he is taken off the streets to address these."

He adjourned the case until March 15 for a probation report.

Irish Independent