Gardaí urge caution after latest priest attack

Cleric recovering after savage beating

An Garda Siochana has again urged priests to be “vigilant and aware of their own personal safety” following an attack on a Dublin priest.

Fr Diarmuid Byrne continues to recover this week after he was savagely attacked by a burglar at his home in the Rialto area of the capital on October 16. Fr Byrne was discovered covered in blood by gardaí and was rushed to St James’ hospital where he was treated for a fractured skull and cuts to his head requiring 26 stitches, among other injuries.

Investigating officers later detained a young man, Shane Cooney of Lismore Road in Crumlin, Dublin, near the scene of the attack. Forensic examination of blood staining on Cooney’s clothes and a bloody footprint at the scene of the attack led to charges in relation to the assault and he was subsequently refused bail at a sitting of Dublin District Court to appear again on October 23.

The attack on Fr Byrne comes in the wake of an attack earlier this year on a Galway-based priest, who was tied to a radiator and threatened by four masked raiders who entered his home in March. Fr Pat O’Brien’s terrifying experience led to gardaí locally urging increased vigilance by priests and offers to consult with clerics on personal safety and security for their parochial houses.

At the time, gardaí warned that parochial houses might be targets for criminals operating under the mistaken belief that priests keep large amounts of parish money in their homes.

Meanwhile, gardaí in Limerick are this week investigating the theft of five paintings from the Holy Rosary church in the county. The paintings, by renowned artist Fr Jack Hanlon, hung in the church for the past 50 years and depict Jesus, St Patrick, St Brigid, St Oliver Plunket, and Pope Pius IX.