MARY McAleese will be ranked alongside ‘Catholic Emancipator’ Daniel O’Connell when history is written, former TV3 journalist Ursula Halligan has claimed.
The former president was yesterday told to “get off the stage” and stop “hogging the airwaves” with anti-Church rhetoric by Independent TD Mattie McGrath.
In a lengthy attack on Ms McAleese, he claimed she “used” her religion to gain votes when running for Áras an Uachtaráin and her repeated criticisms were “bordering on ridiculous”.
The ex-president has become a divisive figure recently after a number statements relating to the Catholic Church.
In particular, she described the World Meeting of Families (WMOF), which is bringing Pope Francis to Ireland, as a “right-wing rally”.
Ms McAleese said it was designed to “rally people to get them motivated to fight against the tide of same-sex marriage, rights for gays, abortion rights, contraceptive rights”.
She has also said the Church needed “to navigate out of its current untenable teaching which conduce to the evil of homophobia”.
In a documentary on RTÉ earlier this week, the mother of a gay son described how her family feels unwelcome in the Catholic Church.
In ‘Mary McAleese’s Modern Ireland Family’, she told of her hurt at the airbrushing of same-sex couples from promotional family material for the papal visit.
Mr McGrath, who met the Pope in the Vatican yesterday, claimed she had been given too much airtime by the media.
“If she wants to set up her own Church, then do. But just go away and let the people who want to enjoy the Pope enjoy him.
“She was damn glad of the support of the Irish people, as she calls them now ‘bog-standard Catholics’, when she wanted to get elected. She used them.
“If she wants to form her own Church, let her go do so. Get off the stage,” the Tipperary TD said on Newstalk Radio.
Senator Rónán Mullen previously claimed Ms McAleese had abandoned her presidential theme of ‘Building Bridges’, saying she had offended hundreds of thousands of people who will turn out to see Pope Francisthis weekend.
Mr Mullen believes she is seeking to feeding a “drumbeat of negativity towards the Pope’s visit”.
He claimed “some prominent people feel to chastise the Catholic Church without equally acknowledging the huge force for goodness and love that the Church has been and still is”.
However, speaking outside the WMOF yesterday, Ms Ursula Halligan said the ex-president had done the country a great service by highlighting the flaws in the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
Ms Halligan, a Catholic who came out as gay during the marriage referendum, said Ms McAleese “has been a superb champion”.
“She has inspired me all the way. I cannot speak highly enough about her. I believe that in time, in history, we will see her in the ranks of Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell,” Ms Halligan said.
“She has shown the courage that I would love the Pope to show. The right thing is always the loving thing to do.” Ms Halligan said.
The former political journalist said people shouldn’t view the debate as “a squabble between the left and the right or extremes in the Church”.
“It’s about doing the right thing for real human beings.
“We are real, we are human, we bleed like everybody else. We have hearts, we love. That’s all. Please look upon us as human beings,” she said.
Speaking at a ‘Rainbow Choir’ protest, she described some of the Church’s teachings as “destructive”.
“They are so damaging. Anything that stunts love in a human being is evil,” Ms Halligan said.