Monday, February 05, 2024

Cork school plans 'alternative arrangements' for sacraments after 'gender bender' controversy


The Cork school at the centre of a controversy which saw a guest speaker at a school Mass use the term “gender benders” is to put in place “alternative arrangements” for future sacramental celebrations.

The service at St Joseph’s (SMA) Church in Wilton is understood to have led to a large volume of complaints from parents who contacted the school about the comments.

Gaelscoil Uí Riada told parents that, following a meeting last Friday with Fintan Gavin, the Bishop of Cork and Ross, the school would shortly have “new alternative arrangements in place for all future sacramental celebrations and all contacts with the local family of parishes".

However, it is as yet unclear if those arrangements mean that the school will no longer deal with local priest Fr Michael O’Leary, at whose invitation the controversial speaker made his comments at the Grandparents' and Special Friends' Mass on January 30.

The school said it had no prior knowledge of the guest speaker, nor had they invited him to speak.

The man in question told the gathered students to “téigh a chodladh” (go to sleep) before speaking for nearly 20 minutes, a speech which saw him talk disparagingly of divorce and homosexuality, and use the derogatory term “gender benders” when discussing Ireland’s Eurovision entrant Bambie Thug, a Cork native who is non-binary.

In a message to parents on behalf of the school’s board of management following the meeting with the bishop, the board’s chairman Séamus Ó Rinn and school principal Breanndán Ó Gréilligh said the school’s next special Mass, the Ceremony of Light celebration on Tuesday night, will be celebrated by Fr Donal Cotter, the parish priest of the nearby parish of Ballineaspaig.

However, neither Mr Ó Gréilligh nor Mr Ó Rinn would confirm whether that fact means that Fr O’Leary will no longer be permitted to administer sacraments for the gaelscoil’s students.

“The school has absolutely no comment to make,” Mr Ó Rinn told the Irish Examiner.

Neither Fr O’Leary nor Bishop Gavin, under whose patronage the school functions, could be contacted for comment.

In their message, Mr Ó Rinn and Mr Ó Gréilligh said that the issue involving the guest speaker had been “fully discussed” with the bishop. They said: 

All the concerns of the entire school body, shared with the board of management, were also taken into consideration. 

The guest speaker’s speech had caused a deal of consternation among parents, with several people walking out of the ceremony in protest.

However, it is understood that Fr O’Leary had been of the belief that the speaker would be talking about intergenerational faith issues.

In the wake of the Mass, Mr Ó Rinn and Mr Ó Gréilligh wrote to parents saying that they “deeply and sincerely” regretted what had happened and the “upset” caused.