By Susan Gately - 29 January, 2014
A Dublin priest had a gun put to his head during an attempted robbery in the early hours of Sunday morning. Fr Arthur O’Neill who has been parish priest at St Brigid’s Parish in Cabinteely for eight years, was woken by the house alarm in his home. Immediately he was contacted by the telephone monitoring company. Believing it to be a mistake he told them not to contact the second key holder and hung up.
But almost immediately, he turned to see a masked man, standing near him, holding a machine gun. The robber had broken in through a window setting off the alarm.
Fr O’Neill became very angry at the intruder. “I didn’t think I would react the way I did,” he told CatholicIreland. “You better believe I was angry.” Fr O’Neill insisted on dressing himself, and was taken downstairs, where a second masked burglar was outside shouting instructions to his partner through the window.
“I was angry, frightened and frustrated,” said Fr O’Neill. “I remember at one point I was standing by the wardrobe, and I thought ‘If I grab a belt I could do something’, but then I thought, ‘there is no point in being foolish’.”
The men wanted money, but Fr O’Neill told them they were “barking up the wrong tree”. At one point the gun was put to his face. As he pushed it away, he realised it was real. He said the men were “very menacing”.
The burglars ransacked the house but they found nothing of value. Fr O’Neill says he thinks he “bored them away” by launching into a sermon. “I asked if they wanted to come down to the church but they didn’t want to,” said Fr O’Neill. Then he opened the door, and invited them to leave.
As they left, he noticed they had taken his mobile. “I said to them. ‘I need the phone, I’m a priest’. One of them shouted back ‘Ah Yeah, we’ll leave it for you’.” In fact the burglars did leave the phone, placing it under a plate in the front garden so it would not get wet.
Fr O’Neill discovered the phone when he used the land line later on to ring his mobile. “It shows nobody is too bad,” he said.
The incident lasted about fifteen minutes. He said he did not wish the men any ill will or desire vengeance but “forgiveness does not do away with justice. If I saw those guys in a line up I would pick them out.”
He said the support he had received from his neighbours, friends and parishioners had been great.
“The amount of support you get afterwards is amazing,” he said adding “This is the parish to be in – a great parish. The bond of friendship between people here is great.”