By Sarah Mac Donald - 08 June, 2016
“To intimidate clergy, social and community workers and all those who are working tirelessly and peacefully in the service of their local community ... is a weak and cowardly act."
The threats made against a Belfast priest by a criminal gang with suspected dissident republican links have been decried by the Bishop of Down and Connor as “intolerable”.
The threats were made to Passionist priest Fr Gary Donegan and other community workers based in Ardoyne.
In a statement, Bishop Noel Treanor offered his support to them and urged those behind the threats to “leave behind the path of violence”.
“To intimidate clergy, social and community workers and all those who are working tirelessly and peacefully in the service of their local community – especially those addressing pastoral and social concerns – is a weak and cowardly act on the part of those who themselves are threatened by the prospect and reality of peace, reconciliation and the rule of law,” Dr Treanor said.
He asked those who issued the threats “to stop and think” and he also warned them that the path of violence would “ultimately achieve nothing for the citizens of this country, nor for themselves”.
“I ask them to engage in dialogue in order to resolve all problems, to offer hope for their communities and neighbourhoods and to build a shared future for all the people of Northern Ireland.”
Bishop Treanor said the sign of true leadership was to be found in resolving conflict, not in issuing threats. “It is to be found in working together to address together the needs of the weak,” he said.
He criticised the threats made against Fr Donegan and the community workers in North Belfast and stressed that they have no place in a civilised society.
Fr Donegan condemned the killers of Michael McGibbon and other recent attacks in Ardoyne. According to the priest, he has dealt with 42 families in the past fortnight who have been subject to death threats.
However, he said he would not be intimidated by the threats.
“I would quite happily die here, because these people are second to none. They have made that known to me and I will continue to serve them as long as I am here,” he told UTV.