‘Despicable’: Rural TDs respond to Varadkar’s priest remarks

A number of rural TDs have strongly criticised the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, for remarks he made yesterday, Wednesday, July 3, in the Dáil.

In a heated debate with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach said: “The deputy [Martin] reminds me of these parish priests who preach from the alter telling us to avoid sin while secretly going behind the alter and engaging in any amount of sin himself.”

Though the Taoiseach has since withdrawn and apologised for the remarks, that hasn’t stopped them from drawing the ire of several rural-based politicians.

The first thing to say is that the comments were despicable.

“Yes, there were problems in the Catholic Church, as well as in other parts of society. No one condones that. But there are a lot of good priests who do Trojan work in society,” Roscommon-Galway independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice told AgriLand.

“If this was said about any other church or group in society, there would be uproar,” he added.

Fitzmaurice also addressed more generally what he sees as the current atmosphere in society when it comes to the Catholic Church.

People might attack religion, but if someone belonging to them passes away, the first thing they do is run into a church.

“People are taking an ‘a la carte’ approach to the church. They’re picking and choosing what they want,” he argued.

“The Taoiseach needs to radically rethink his comments. Yes, there were problems. But, there is a ferocious amount of priests, and I know many of them myself who do so much work in a quiet way, and the Taoiseach has blackened them all with the same brush,” deputy Fitzmaurice concluded.

His sentiments were echoed by independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath, who said he was “horrified” by the Taoiseach’s comments.

The current programme for Government is all about being inclusive and respectful. I think what the Taoiseach said was outrageous and scandalous.

“He seemed very deliberate in what he said. It seemed like he was really meaning to cause harm,” claimed deputy McGrath, speaking to AgriLand.

He argued that the Taoiseach’s comments “were beneath” the role of a prime minister of a country.

Like deputy Fitzmaurice, deputy McGrath also spoke about the role he said priests have in society.

There are countless priests who work with homeless people, as well as work with people oversees.

“He wouldn’t dream of saying that about any other religious group. It’s a new low and a terrible slur,” added deputy McGrath.

But it wasn’t only the Taoiseach who came in for criticism from the Tipperary representative.

“If Micheál Martin was half a man he would have made the Taoiseach withdraw the comments there and then,” said the independent TD.

“It’s open season on the Catholic Church,” concluded deputy McGrath.

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