'Ardoyne incident like Holy Cross again' - Fr Donegan

The prominent priest Fr Gary Donegan has said the level of vitriol in a confrontation between himself and GARC members in Ardoyne on Saturday compared to what the Holy Cross dispute was like in 2001.

A video has circulated on social media showing high profile GARC (Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective) member Dee Fennell shouting down the priest over his stance on parading.

In the video, the crowd shout “shame, shame” as the priest is shouted down by Mr Fennell, who claims that he has failed to side with the people of Ardoyne.

It followed an Orange Order parade in the area that allowed for a 2013 march to finish its return route, ending an impasse on the matter and kick starting the dismantling of the Twaddell protest camp.

The deal was reached between the Crumlin and Ardoyne Residents Association (CARA) and the Ligoniel Lodges, but the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) objected to it.

They then held a protest parade on Friday night ahead of the Saturday Orange Order march, which they also held a demonstration against.

It was after this march that the crowd and Dee Fennell confronted the priest, who up until last week, had been the rector of Holy Cross Church in the area for 15 years.

He said it had been a reminder of the nastiest days of the Holy Cross dispute in 2001, but that it was almost worse, as he knew the people who were shouting at him.

“I had almost a baptism of fire when I walked the road with the children of the Holy Cross school and I suppose I expected and did receive a lot of serious abuse and vitriolic bitterness at the time,” he said.

“But that was because of the sectarian divide and people didn’t know who I was, I was just a figurehead to shout at or whatever.

GARC member Dee Fennell shouted at Fr Donegan over perceived failings on his part. Credit: Presseye

“I was up on that road for two and a half years and patrolling at night and I took a lot of abuse, some so bad it even upset the police officers there.

“But Saturday, what saddened me and that’s the word that I think is most appropriate, is that quite a few of the people involved in that, I’d been involved in very serious pastoral issues with them and have known them for 15 years.

“To surround me in that way, I’m not a shrinking violet and I certainly wasn’t going to be cowed by it, but it was intimidating and I felt they were letting themselves down, even some of the language that was used.”

He went on to say that he would not hesitate to shake hands with any of those involved and to move past it over a cup of coffee.