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Priest tells St Vincent de Paul to remove clothing bank from church car park in row over Eighth campaign



St Peter & Paul's in Dunboyne, Co Meath

St Peter & Paul's in Dunboyne, Co Meath

St Peter & Paul's in Dunboyne, Co Meath

A parish priest in Co Meath instructed the St Vincent de Paul to remove its clothing bank from the Church-owned car park in response to the organisation's refusal to take a No stand in the abortion referendum.

The clothing banks are a valuable source of income to the charity.

Fr Patrick O'Connor, newly appointed parish priest at St Peter & Paul's in Dunboyne, Co Meath, demanded the society remove the unit, at a cost of around €200, causing anger among local residents.

One local, Darren Whelan, posted news of the decision on a Facebook page used by villagers.

He told the Irish Independent: "Now more than ever we have a homelessness crisis in Ireland. SVP support some of the most vulnerable in society.

"To ask them, at local level, to remove their clothes bank from parish property, shows the continued ignorance of the world around the Catholic Church at parish level."

He added he has written to Bishop of Meath Michael Smith and encouraged others to do the same.

Local Fine Gael Councillor Maria Murphy said the clothes bank had been in place for many years and was regularly used by local people to help the Society.

"It's an awful pity it was removed. The St Vincent de Paul provides a great service and it has always been non-political and its views on any referendum shouldn't be sought nor should it be punished in this way.

"Any stance taken by any group in a democratic society should be respected."

Fr O'Connor is currently based in Athboy before he takes up his duties in Dunboyne. Previous parish priest Monsignor Dermot Farrell was recently appointed Bishop of Ossary.

When contacted by the Irish Independent Fr O'Connor said in a statement: "During the referendum campaign, I was disappointed at the lack of a pro-life statement from the Society of St Vincent de Paul. Now that the campaign is over I have contacted our local SVP society to reinstate the clothes bank and I am happy to work closely with the society in the parish."

He added he would "make up" for any deficit in cost.

The Meath Diocesan office clarified there was no directive from the Church to remove clothing banks in any parishes and Bishop Michael Smith was "totally unaware" of the move.

The Society for St Vincent de Paul said: "SVP was very disappointed at the removal of the clothing bank but always respects the wishes of the property owner of sites where our bins are located.

"The Society is delighted to hear that the bank will be returning as the donations made by the public through its clothing banks provide a valuable financial contribution to the Society's work."

Earlier this week Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said Catholics who voted Yes in the referendum should go to confession, while Fr Patrick McCafferty of Belfast said Yes voters who wish to get married should do so in a civil setting.

Meath voted by 69.2pc in favour of repeal.


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