Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Even when sensible people drink, they can be very stupid' - Priest offers to help in scandal over Ballyragget GAA photos

Parishioners angry over strippers controversy

Fr Tommy Murphy, who is due to speak to his parishioners in St Patrick’s Church in Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny, today. Photo: Fergal Philips
Fr Tommy Murphy, who is due to speak to his parishioners in St Patrick’s Church in Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny, today. Photo: Fergal Philips
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

The parish priest of Ballyragget, the Kilkenny village at the centre of last week's storm over lewd images and videos posted on social media, will address his flock today.

Fr Tommy Murphy will speak forcibly from the pulpit at the end of Mass.

"The Christian message is to love your neighbour, which means looking out for one another. If someone thought they were having the craic by bringing in women and stripping, they are not looking out for one another. They were going to have a laugh at it. If they were caring for each other, they would be saying 'God, your mother and father would be very disappointed at this'," he said.

Fr Murphy told the Sunday Independent he is "not very happy" that business for the women involved in the incident is up 70pc since the story emerged and said he would be happy to talk to the young men involved in the incident.

"I don't think there's going to be a rush on confessions," he said, "but if anyone wants to talk about it, I would be very glad to talk to them."

He added: "There is salvation at the end of this."

The priest added that he would also be there to offer support to the women involved in the incident.

Fr Murphy described how his phone had been ringing off the hook since the news broke. Some parishioners had contacted him to say they believe the young men should be given counselling.

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The controversy started after lewd images from an event attended by some members of an intermediate championship winning GAA team were circulated online.

Photos and video from the incident - which occurred two days after the club won the county final - have gone viral, and sparked an investigation by the Kilkenny County Board. The photos show two naked women with the group of men, and in another picture, performing what appears to be a lewd act.

A man from Ballyragget was celebrating his 21st birthday on Tuesday night when the pictures were taken.

It is understood that only a small number of people from the winning team attended the event.

Sources close to the team said they were devastated by what occurred.

They were also keen to stress that not all members of the team were there, just a "smaller group of six to seven members".

Sources say the team won the championship on Sunday and then went for dinner in a nearby hotel where their manager paid tribute to their efforts over the last five years.

They then returned to the square in Ballyragget for an impromptu homecoming and celebration.

The party continued in local bar Fitzpatrick's, where the cup was taken. It is understood a small group continued celebrating into Tuesday as it was a young man's 21st birthday. The cup had remained in the pub since the Sunday night, which prompted some of the men to pose with it for photos.

In recent days, locals wished to stress it was not a GAA event, or an event that was linked to Ballyragget GAA club.

It's understood another man - who is not associated with the club - was drinking with the teammates on Tuesday. He decided to hire two female strippers for the man's birthday celebrations, unknown to the GAA players.

"The first the lads knew of the strippers was when they turned up to the pub," a source said.

Speaking about how the incident became public, Fr Murphy said: "I think we need to look at the [culture] of taking photographs and sending out messages because you don't know where that's going to end up."

He added there were concerns that an incident like this could happen again: "The club is very conscious that this never happens again, and every mother and father would say the same but they can't guarantee that. Unfortunately we have a drink culture in Ireland and it's even tied in to baptisms and first communions, and even when sensible people drink, they can be very stupid."

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