Holy row: Limerick priest tells singing granny to 'get off the bus'

Maria Flannery


Maria Flannery

Fr John Mockler: 'It's exaggerated'

Fr John Mockler: 'It's exaggerated'

A LIMERICK pensioner is considering taking legal action against a priest who ordered her off a bus carrying local people who were going hunting the wren.

The grandmother said that she was “disappointed” and felt “very traumatised and threatened by his reaction” on the day of the incident.

The priest, Fr John Mockler, said that he told the woman to leave the bus because she was not one of his ‘chosen’ musicians for the event, which was organised to raise funds for his pilgrimage to Medjugorje with local teenagers.

However, according to local sources, there is bad blood between the woman – who is in her 60s – and the priest, Fr Mockler of Newcastle West, who have not spoken for several years.

And it has also transpired that Fr Mockler also changed the collection point for those travelling on the bus, after he heard the woman intended to travel.

It is understood that during the confrontation on St Stephen’s Day, gardai were called by Fr Mockler in an effort to get the woman to get off the bus. This is despite the fact that the event was advertised in local newspapers as an ‘all welcome’ day out.

The call was subsequently cancelled and gardai did not attend the scene, it is understood.

The bus was organised to transport people going on the Wren in Newcastle West.

When the woman arrived to take part in the hunt, the priest “cleared her off the bus” and a confrontation broke out.

Fr Mockler told the woman that it was his group, that he chose the group, and that he didn’t want her joining on the bus.

The woman, who claims to be a singer and who once released tapes and performed gigs, read the invitation to all in the newspaper and wanted to join in.

She also brought refreshments with her on the day for the group.

The group was due to meet at the Longcourt Hotel car park in Newcastle West, but upon hearing that the woman was planning to come, the priest redirected the group to St Ita’s Hospital in an attempt to lose her.

However, the woman still managed to catch up with the group, and was at the bus when the musicians emerged from the hospital after a round of music.

The confrontation took place in front of a handful of people who were also on the bus at the time.

“It was organised in good faith and it was Christmas after all,” said one Newcastle West person who defended the woman.

When contacted to comment on the incident, Fr John Mockler said that “she was somebody who was there who shouldn’t have been”.

“She wasn’t a musician and I picked the group of musicians that I wanted, and we went in to play for the patients in St Ita’s and when we went out there was somebody in the minibus. Not a musician and shouldn’t have been there. I wanted the seat for a musician that was part of the group.”

He said it was “nothing to do with” any bad blood, but that it was solely because she was not invited and was “not a musician”.

He also claimed that the other members of the group didn’t want to get back on the bus because she was on board.

Asked if a confrontation took place, Fr Mockler said that was “an exaggeration”.

When asked if the event was an ‘all welcome’ event, as advertised in local newspapers, he said: “Yes, for musicians. Not for just anybody who’s not a musician who just wants to come along and cause trouble.”

The dispute between the pair is said to go back to an incident two years ago when, after the woman was in a car accident, she broke the Eucharistic host at Mass to place one half on her neck – in a bid to heal a whiplash injury.

According to locals, Fr Mockler was said to have been very annoyed at the incident.

The tensions between the priest and the woman have meant that she now goes to Mass in another church.

When contacted by the Limerick Leader, the woman said that she was “disappointed” and felt “very traumatised and threatened by his reaction” on the day of the incident.