‘Regret’ and ‘outrage’ expressed over graphic Good Friday passion play in Limerick

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

The festival took place at the Milk Market, although the venue had no part in running the event

The festival took place at the Milk Market, although the venue had no part in running the event

THE organiser of an Easter family festival in Limerick has said he “regrets” a segment which depicted a teenage girl “slitting her wrists” leaving children in tears.

Mary Barry Larkin, who travelled with her three young children to the event, was “incensed” having witnessed a graphic re-telling of the passion of Lord Jesus Christ at the Easter Family Festival which took place last Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Milk Market.

She said: ​“We attended this event as a family night out of music, facepainting and it ended in me having to console my children.”

The drama on Good Friday evening saw members of American church group Global Ventures stage the show before then allegedly retelling stories of people they had known who had taken their own lives.

Brad Beebe, the co-ordinator of the festival, said: “We are saddened this slipped through and people were upset.”

Mary, a religion teacher at Scoil Mhuire agus Íde in Newcastle West, said: “I wouldn’t present that drama to teenagers, it was that violent. It was lovely when we first came in – there was face-painting, a traditional band with kids dancing."

However, then a retelling of the crucifixion with sound effects took place, followed by a drama presentation.

“It was like they were visually trying to depict the struggle between good and evil. A guy came out on stage, dressed in black from head to toe, with a knife with red paint on it to signify blood. At the end of the night, the main character in the play, the teenage girl, was slitting her wrists,” Mary claimed.

It was at this point she left with her children. But as she was exiting, she said the speaker was recalling family members who had “killed themselves, thrown themselves into the river due to drugs use”.

“It was wholly inappropriate,” she said, adding her children were left struggling to sleep that night as a result.

“It’s not the kind of thing any family should see. But what I am more concerned at is the deception. It should have been described and made very clear so I, as a parent, had a choice in whether to go to this event or not. My children know Jesus died on the cross and rose again. But they don’t need to see it in such a graphic manner,” Mary added.

It felt like a “recruitment event” for the church, she added, with a bag of goodies handed to children containing words of scripture and information on a summer camp “which may include some Christian activities.”

While the festival was organised by a group of local churches and charities, this segment was delivered by Global Ventures, based in Oklahoma in America’s Bible Belt.

Their visit to Shannonside – costing $2,745 a head – was advertised as “an adventure to bring the love and power of the Gospel to Ireland.”

Mr Beebe added their presentation was “not appropriate” in light of the “teen suicide issue” in Ireland.

“We wanted the event to be fun and upbeat and present the true reason for Easter and Good Friday in a way that would be entertaining, but not in a scary manner,” he added.

The festival took place at the Milk Market, and although the venue had no part in running the event, its manager David Fitzgerald also issued an apology.

The passion drama, he said, “should have been made clearer on the advertising material promoting the event.”

He added he raised this with the organisers.