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Priest targeted for letting two Muslims say blessing during mass


A priest has revealed that the abuse he received from ‘bigoted’ protesters last weekend outside his church was only a drop in the ocean compared to the online vitriol he suffered.

Fr Stephen Farragher was targeted by a group of people last Saturday because he allowed two members of the Muslim community to say a blessing during a mass in April.

A group who identified themselves as Síol na hÉireann -The Irish Patriots Party – accused him of ‘bringing foreign satanic cultists’ into the church and being a ‘heretic’.

Fr Farragher said: “I have been overwhelmed by the messages I have received from hundreds of people around the country the last few days.

“But what I dealt with on Saturday evening, and people wouldn’t be aware of, it was only a sample of what I endured during Holy Week and Easter shortly after I invited the two imams in [Muslim leaders] at the time of the pandemic and lockdown.



Fr Stephen Farragher is confronted by protester outside his church in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo

“I mean, what I was subjected to online by crowds called Church Militant [an alleged US right wing group] and people roaring down the line at me on the phone.

“I’ve also got messages like ‘traitor’ sent to me in the post in big red writing.

“So they almost got to me at Easter time, but in hindsight they probably just toughened me up.”

Fr Farragher said the group of about 12 people, who were not from Ballyhaunis or Co Mayo, also carried a banner reading ‘No Sharia in Ireland’ into the church grounds. The popular priest decided to broadcast his Mass on local radio last April and two Muslim men contacted him and suggested there should be a joint act of solidarity.

The cleric asked the pair to say a blessing at the end of his Mass at St Patrick’s Church in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo on April 3.

Fr Farragher said they recited the Islamic call to prayer and prayed that God’s mercy would help all those suffering from Covid-19.

He added: “What they don’t realise is that a lot of these people have an awful lot more in common with us than they realise.

“Okay, maybe they worship God with a different name but in terms of values and living good, moral lives [there are big similarities].”

Ballyhaunis is one of the most diverse places in the country.

The priest has not made any complaints to gardai to date.

Fr Farragher said: “The real work of integration in Ballyhaunis happens in our schools where we have different cultures, nationalities and religions, but also our voluntary organisations and our sports clubs make a strong effort to be inclusive.”

Fr Farragher said that multiculturalism flourished when the late Pakistani businessman Sher Mohammed Rafique first brought Muslim workers to the Co Mayo town in the 1970s.

He added: “So, when you have people arriving in from outside with their own bigoted agenda and trying to impose that on people locally who rightly resent that and most decent people do as well.

“People have been sending me text messages, emails and contacting me on social media and everything to offer their support.

“The guy who was the ringleader [Síol na hÉireann] got 580 votes in the recent election out of an electorate of 126,000 so that shows you how representative he was.

There was a video of the group abusing Fr Farragher posted online after the incident last weekend.

He said: “I haven’t looked at their stuff on You Tube but I’ve been told by some of my friends that the comments on it are vile.”



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