How Irish priest helped me survive – Jamie Bulger dad
THE Irish priest who comforted the parents of murdered Liverpool toddler Jamie Bulger still finds it too painful to talk about the murder 20 years on.
Jamie's father, Ralph Bulger, has paid an emotional tribute to Fr Michael O'Connell for the incredible support he showed the family after their ordeal.
Jamie (2) was abducted, tortured and murdered by two boys on February 12 1993
Jamie had been in the New Strand shopping centre in Bootle, Liverpool with his mother, Denise, when he was approached by Robert Thompson (10) and Jon Venables (10).
His battered body was later found on a railway line in Walton, some 4km away. Fr Michael was working in Liverpool at the time but has since returned to Ireland and is now based with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart on Cork's Western Road.
Jamie's father said they simply wouldn't have been able to cope without Fr Michael's compassion, strength and support through the painful weeks and months after their son's murder.
"Talking to our parish priest, Father Michael, was the most enormous help," Ralph said.
"He had been a comfort throughout. But one emotional afternoon, I wept buckets of tears with him and felt not one ounce of embarrassment. Afterwards, I thought about what he had said. Could I ever stop blaming myself for James's death?"
Mr Bulger has written a book about his ordeal entitled My James and he credits Fr O'Connell who helping him through the darkest days of his life.
"The truth is that my anger was the only thing that kept me going sometimes but I also knew it was eroding every fibre of my humanity. I knew I could never forgive Thompson and Venables, but I desperately wanted to feel normal again.
"I couldn't remember what it felt like to start each day with joy and happiness, as I had before James was killed. Fr Mick taught me it was okay to feel the way I did," he wrote.
So great is the bond between Jamie's family and the cleric that they have even visited Fr Michael in Cork.
But Fr Michael has chosen to keep the relationship he has with Ralph and Denise private.
"It is something I still prefer not to talk about," Fr Michael told the Herald.
"It all happened a very long time ago. I have only spoken about this at the request of the family. Everything they say to me I treat as confidential which is how it should be," he added.
Tributes were paid to Jamie Bulger last week to mark the 20th anniversary of the boy's death.