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Tuesday 25 June 2019

Fear contributed to Cleary's early death

Fr Michael Cleary's death was hastened by his fear that the Bishop Eamonn Casey love child scandal could lead to his own similar secret being exposed, said his son Ross Hamilton Cleary.

The celebrity priest died of cancer in 1993, a year after the sensational revelations that his friend Bishop Eamonn Casey was the father of a son in the US.

The cancer, which was first detected 17 years earlier, returned with a vengeance, as a result of the priest's terror of being found out, said his son.

Fr Cleary fathered two children with Phyllis Hamilton, his housekeeper, whom he first seduced when she was a vulnerable 17-year-old girl.

Their first child was given up for adoption but their second, Ross, was raised by them as they lived a full intimate life together in church-owned properties in Dublin.

Mr Hamilton Cleary, now aged 30, spoke of growing up with what felt like "a dirty secret" as his parents lived like husband and wife.

Their unusual existence will feature tonight in the RTE 1 television programme 'At Home With The Clearys'.

In a Sunday Independent interview yesterday, Ross said the Casey scandal did result in Fr Cleary finally being prompted to begin talking to Ross in a father-and-son way.

"I never once called him dad. It was always Father," he said.

It was not until a few days after his death that the truth finally emerged -- a period that was "hell on earth" for Ross and his mother. Ross said he did not blame his father for a few years after his death.

Grieving

However, later he began to say to himself: "Jesus, what a bastard. How could he do this to us?"

The making of the documentary programme has helped the grieving process and he now can finally enjoy remembering his father again, he said.

He was 10 years old when his mother confided in him that Fr Cleary was his father. He said he felt a little ashamed of him and did not want him to be his father. Just like the priest kept him a secret, he also wanted to keep his father's true identity a secret.

But he had first suspected the priest might be his father when he watched the film Star Wars -- The Empire Strikes Back. Describing a scene from the film, he said: "And Luke Skywalker is told by Darth Vader: 'I'm your father.' Think of it. He is all in black. And Luke goes: 'No! No! No!'"

"I had a similar experience. But I don't have a light sabre."

SEE MARY KENNY PAGE 25

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