Tuesday 21 November 2017

Priest who queried Fr Cleary's family ties may face action

Fr. Arthur O'Neill
Fr. Arthur O'Neill
Pictures from the book ‘Secret Love’ By Phyllis Hamilton. Ross Hamilton with his mother Phyllis and Michael Cleary.
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

A CONTROVERSIAL priest who queried whether the late Fr Michael Cleary fathered two children could face disciplinary action by the church authorities.

Dublin priest Fr Arthur O'Neill has questioned whether Fr Cleary really fathered two children with his housekeeper Phyllis Hamilton, allegations which in the mid-1990s provoked a huge scandal in the Irish Catholic Church.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said he did not agree with Fr O'Neill's views which he insisted "are his alone".

He also insisted that Ross Hamilton – widely acknowledged to be Fr Cleary's son – has a right to his privacy.

Dr Martin also stressed a parish newsletter, which carried Fr O'Neill's controversial allegations, is not a suitable vehicle to express such views.

But a spokesperson for Dr Martin, in response to a number of detailed questions, last night refused to rule out the possibility of disciplinary action being taken against Fr O'Neill, should he repeat his comments in public, or should he again use his parish newsletter to express them. The spokesperson also refused to confirm if any commitments had been sought from Fr O'Neill on this matter – including confirmation that the contents of the newsletter attached to St Brigid's Parish in Cabinteely will in future reflect the guidelines set out by the Archbishop.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Fr O'Neill was threatened at gunpoint by masked burglars in January who broke into his house demanding money.

Repeated efforts to contact Fr O'Neill failed last night, with both his mobile and the parish phone ringing out repeatedly.

In his June newsletter, the priest described the Fr Cleary allegations as "exasperating" and unproven, while also blaming journalists for "shoddy practice" in putting them in the public domain.

Irish Independent

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