Irish_Football_Association-logo-A3B92E9ED1-seeklogo_comThe green and white army of Northern Ireland football was never a big priority for RTÉ, who always followed the fortunes of the green shirts of the Republic of Ireland. Occasionally there were stories of success, especially the World Cup victory over hosts Spain in 1982 and qualification for the second round. I also remember covering the appointment as NI manager of Lawrie Sanchez, a past hero of mine when he was with Wimbledon FC and who I was glad to see getting the job. There was however always one constant factor when speaking about soccer here in the North: Malcolm Brodie, who has now passed to his eternal reward.

Malcolm Brodie (BBC picture)

Malcolm Brodie (BBC picture)

The former sports editor of the Belfast Telegraph was a fount of knowledge about the international side and reported on fourteen World Cup finals. He was always willing to share that wisdom with other media colleagues, including news reporters who did not specialise in sport. He also looked after junior colleagues. I was interested to hear on Talkback (BBC Radio Ulster around 20:30) yesterday a tribute from Alan Green of the BBC.

Alan is the same age as myself and our paths crossed briefly in London in the 1970s. After graduating from Queen’s, he started as a BBC News Trainee  in April 1975, a year after I had. My traineeeship brought me to local radio Birmingham, where I got my chance to combine sports reporting with news, thanks to Jim Rosenthal and his successor Nick Owen. Alan got an attachment back to BH in Belfast and later moved to Manchester, to begin a lengthy career as a commentator with BBC Radio Sport.

Alan Green

Alan Green (BBC)

Alan mentioned to Wendy Austin how Malcolm had taken him under his wing when he was still a student at Methodist College, interested in sports reporting. He took him on as a “copy boy” at weekends over forty years ago. When Alan landed the sports job in Manchester, Malcolm asked the sports “mafia” there, who held him in high regard, to help the fledgling commentator.

Speaking on the same programme, the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said the journalist was a great friend:-

Alex Ferguson (Man.Utd.picture)

Alex Ferguson (Man.Utd.picture)

“He cut to the chase, quite simply that’s how he was, you know. He was straight-talking and one thing I always admired about him, he never changed his accent, which is very difficult living in a place like Belfast. He never lost the energy to do his job and he obviously enjoyed doing it and had enthusiasm about it. It’s very hard to retain enthusiasm for your job right up to your 80s.”

Malcolm was from Scotland and had been evacuated to County Armagh during the second world war. He began his career with a local newspaper in Portadown. He then moved in 1943 to the Belfast Telegraph, where he set up the first sports desk. His achievements as a journalist were recognised with the award of an MBE and the conferring of an honorary doctorate by the University of Ulster. He received the FIFA Jules Rimet award in 2004. The FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was a personal friend, described him as “one of the true greats of sports journalism”. More tributes can be found here at the Irish Football Association. He was 86 and was a member of the Belfast and District Branch of the National Union of Journalists. However there are some former staff at the Belfast Telegraph who will tell you a very different story about his attitude to the union during a strike. His funeral service will take place on Monday (February 4th) at 12 noon in Cregagh Presbyterian Church, Belfast, then to Roselawn Crematorium for Committal at 2.30 p.m. Family flowers only. Donations in lieu of flowers have been requested to Chest/Heart/Stroke or Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Malcolm Brodie (Belfast Telegraph)

Malcolm Brodie (Belfast Telegraph) 1926-2013


Garda Adrian Donohue

Garda Adrian Donohue

There has been widespread public revulsion at the killing of Detective Garda Adrian Donohue in County Louth. His state funeral is taking place in Dundalk. His remains were removed from his home at 11.30am to St Joseph’s Redemptorist Church in  Dundalk arriving at 1.00pm. The main celebrant will be Fr Michael Cusack, who was with Caroline Donohue and her family until late last night, preparing for the funeral. Following requiem Mass, the cortege will proceed to Lordship Cemetery for burial. It was at Lordship credit union that Garda Donohue was shot dead during a raid by an armed gang on Friday night.

The Irish League of Credit Unions has offered a reward of €50,000 for any information leading to arrests and prosecutions in the case. In the Dáil, the Taoiseach led tributes to the 41 year-old detective, a married man with two young children. The Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said Garda Donohoe had died in the defence of other citizens. He said the death provoked memories of the killing of Jerry McCabe by the IRA in June 1996. He went on to apologise to Mrs McCabe, the McCabe family and to Garda Ben O’Sullivan, who survived the shooting. The Louth TD also apologised to other members of what he called “state forces” who were killed by republicans in the course of the Northern Ireland conflict.

Books of condolences have been opened at many centres including Dundalk Garda station where Garda Donohue was based and the Mansion House in Dublin. The tricolour has been flown at half mast at Garda stations since the shooting. But it will only be lowered today on government buildings and at Aras an Uachtaraín. On Saturday, passing by the Aras, I was surprised the flag had not been lowered as a mark of respect and again when I was there yesterday it flew at its normal position. I was informed that the Department of the Taoiseach decides the protocol. Yet when Garda McCabe was shot dead, the tricolour (or so we are told) did fly at half mast soon after the killing. Today the nation is in mourning for a dedicated servant of the people. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Memorial at Garda HQ Phoenix Park

Memorial at Garda HQ Phoenix Park


Boomtown Rats

Boomtown Rats

The reformation of The Boomtown Rats gives me a chance to boast about my first broadcasting scoop. It was 1977 and no-one had ever heard of this pop group with the strange-sounding name. I interviewed the band (except Bob Geldof) for radio and ensured their first ever broadcast on the BBC. At that stage their single “Looking after No 1” had just appeared on a New Wave LP (first track on the “B” side) along with songs from The Ramones (“Judy is a Punk”; “Suzy is a Headbanger”) and various others of the punk rock variety. John Peel gave it an outing.

I was able to go one better, thanks to my sister in Dublin who knew this up and coming band from the Dún Laoghaire area. The group had completed an Irish tour in 1975 and the following year moved to London. I was working at Pebble Mill as a News Producer (reporter/presenter/producer) with BBC Radio Birmingham at the time. Being a local radio station, it meant that I could contribute to the sports programmes at the weekend. Nuneaton v Wimbledon was my first sports report. But I was also able to do interviews for various music programmes including Norman Wheatley’s “Gentlefolk”. I got to meet The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Frank Patterson and Eily O’Grady and Horslips when they came to the heart of England.

Malcolm Jay presented a Tuesday night rock show, “Heavy Pressure”. When I mentioned that this new rock band from Ireland who had appeared a month earlier at Birmingham town hall with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was coming to Wolverhampton and I might be able to get an interview with them, he sounded interested. So on July 20th 1977 my sister came over from Dublin and we drove to the La Fayette night club near the centre of Wolverhampton.

We arrived early and there was no sign of anyone. Eventually a van arrived with five of the Boomtown Rats and their gear. Lead singer Bob Geldof travelled separately. So while the band waited in an empty club, I sat down with the group, having been introduced to them by Carolyn. I had brought my UHER reel-to-reel tape recorder that we used for interviews. I spoke to each in turn, including the man with the funny name. Pete Briquette. Bob Geldof eventually turned up and said hello. The group performed that night to a crowd of less than 100. A few days later the interview (which I still have a copy of) was broadcast, along with Looking after no.1 and another track as well (possibly Mary of the fourth form).


I am glad I spotted the potential of the band at an early stage and followed their progress over the years. Then this morning courtesy of the John Murray show on RTÉ Radio 1 I listened to Pete Briquette explain the plans by the band (or at least himself, Geldof, Simon Crowe and Garry Roberts) to get back together again in time for the Isle of Wight festival from 13th-16th June at Seaclose Park. The Rats will join a line-up also featuring The Killers and Bon Jovi, who have already been announced as headliners for the first major festival of the summer.

A Tonic for the Troops

A Tonic for the Troops

The BBC reports that Bob Geldof said: “I’ve always fancied playing the Isle of Wight Festival ever since I hitched there in the good/bad days when I was a kid.” The band have been playing live in recent years without Geldof. The Boomtown Rats were  the first Irish band to have a UK number one hit with Rat Trap. They followed that up with another number one with I Don’t Like Mondays, which was a hit around the world. They recorded six albums, three of which made the UK top 10, before splitting up in 1986.

The band’s last major live performance was at the 1985 Live Aid concert at Wembley, organised by Sir Bob Geldof.




The words (or some of them) of Pastor Martin Niemöller have been quoted in various forms as sectarian tensions rose in Belfast over the flags issue.  In World War I, he served as a German naval officer on board submarines. He was a Protestant theologian and his attitude to the Jews has been the subject of debate. In this quotation, he was referring to the inactivity of German intellectuals during the Nazis’ rise to power:

“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Having signed a petition by Protestant churchmen that was critical of Nazi policies, he was put on trial for activities against the state. During the second world war, he was interned in the concentration camps of Dachau near Munich and Sachsenhausen.

Blessed Rupert Meyer SJ

Blessed Rupert Mayer SJ

Another clergyman to have been imprisoned at Sachsenhausen was a Catholic priest, Blessed Rupert Mayer SJ, known as the Apostle of Munich. A member of the Jesuit order, he was a powerful preacher, who spoke out against the evils of Hitler and Nazism. He too served in the first world war as a military chaplain. He is buried at St Michael’s church in Munich. He was arrested by the Gestapo in November 1939 shortly after the outbreak of the second world war and was deported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he remained for several months. He was then sent to the monastery at Ettal near Garmisch in Bavaria and placed under house arrest. Released in May 1945 he returned to Munich but died in November that year while saying Mass. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987.



Another story of courage by a Catholic priest in a concentration camp is that of Saint Maximilian Kolbe OFM, a Franiscan. He was arrested by the Gestapo at a friary near Warsaw in 1941 and taken to Auschwitz. He celebrated Mass each day in his prison cell, which I saw five years ago when I visited the former camp.  A memorial there says up to 1.5 million men, women and children mainly Jews were murdered there by the Nazis.

Memorial at Auschwitz

Memorial at Auschwitz

St Maximilian Kolbe OFM

St Maximilian Kolbe OFM

Fr Kolbe offered himself in place of a married man when the  deputy commander of the camp ordered ten men to be starved to death, following the escape of three prisoners. A remarkable story of self-sacrifice which was recognised by the Catholic church when he was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1982. This evening at 7:30pm in the Queen’s Hall at Newtownards, the annual Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration in Northern Ireland will take place, organised by the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister for the past eleven years. It honours those communities destroyed in the Holocaust under Nazi Persecution. But the commemoration has also been extended to remember modern day victims of genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, as well as the atrocities in Armenia.


William Carleton Society at Sandford Parish Church

William Carleton Society at Sandford Parish Church


The William Carleton Society based in the Clogher Valley and Monaghan came to Dublin to mark the 144th anniversary of the death of the famous 19thC Irish author from County Tyrone. Carleton grew up as a Catholic, but would later convert to Protestantism in the Anglican church. He was the youngest of fourteen children born to a small farmer in  Clogher. Dr Frank Brennan a member of the Executive Committee met us at Castleknock and gave our coach party a guided trip through the city centre, starting with the Phoenix Park with its numerous historical monuments and associations going back hundreds of years. We passed Aras an Uachtaráin, the Polo Grounds, Phoenix Cricket Club, the oldest cricket club in Ireland and Dublin Zoo, also taking in the Wellington monument.  We then travelled along Dublin’s quays, with views of Collins Barracks which I have fond memories of, now part of the National Museum of Ireland. On the other side of the Liffey we saw Heuston station and the HSE Headquarters at what was Dr Steevens’ Hospital, with St Patrick’s Hospital and beside it Guinness’ brewery. We saw the Four Courts and crossed Grattan bridge travelling towards City Hall and what was once the headquarters of the British administration In Ireland, Dublin Castle, now in use for the state’s Presidency of the European Union.

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Reverend Precentor Noel Regan

On then to the two cathedrals, Christ Church where there was a festival on in the grounds and St Patrick’s Cathedral where the Reverend Precentor Noel Regan from St Macartan’s Cathedral in Clogher provided some useful background about the two buildings. We moved on through the former Jewish area and into Ranelagh which developed as a genteel middle class suburb after the Act of Union. At Sandford Church we were addressed by a local teacher, who is a member of the congregation, on the history of Sandford church and its connection with Carleton. Susan Roundtree, an architectural historian, also spoke about the development of 19thC Ranelagh and brught along an old map of the area from 1870, which showed Woodville, a row of houses along the Sandford Road close to the entrance to Milltown Park, where Carleton had spent his final years.

1870 map shows Woodville

1870 map shows Woodville

 The residence at Woodville, (beside the entrance to Milltown Park) is now demolished. In his latter years Carleton was friendly with a Jesuit priest Fr Robert Carbery, who was based at Milltown Park. Brian Earls reminded us that in the last weeks before his death in January 1869, the priest offered through Carleton’s wife Jane to give him the last rites of the Catholic church. In response, in one of his last communications, the author told the Jesuit:

“For half a century & more I have not belonged to the Roman Catholic religion. I am now a Protestant and shall will die such”     (LA15/319 DJ O’Donoghue papers, UCD Archives)

We then went to Mount Jerome cemetery for a short ceremony to commemorate the 144th anniversary of William Carleton’s death, followed by a short tour of the graveyard. We travelled to lunch at O’Briens at Sussex Place, Upper Leeson Street, one of Patrick Kavanagh’s haunts, which as a 1900’s grocery and bar reminded him of Carrickmacross. The journey to lunch took us through two Georgian squares (Fitzwilliam and Merrion) and past Leinster House and Government Buildings. Finally after lunch Frank Brennan brought us into Donnybrook and Ballsbridge, passing the British Embassy, AIB and the Aviva Stadium otherwise known as Lansdowne Road. We passed the Grand Canal Theatre, National Convention Centre, and saw some relics of the Celtic Tiger on our route home. Thanks to all who came and I hope you enjoyed the day.

At grave of William Carleton

At grave of William Carleton

The William Carleton Society is a partner in the Shared History, Shared Future project run by Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council through the EU funded South West Peace III Partnership Programme and this activity is being delivered through it.

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I am in Dublin today with a group from the William Carleton Society based in the Clogher Valley and Monaghan to mark the 144th anniversary of the death of the famous 19thC Irish author from County Tyrone. Carleton grew up as a Catholic, but would later convert to Protestantism in the Anglican church. He was the youngest of fourteen children born to a small farmer in  Clogher.  He came to Dublin in 1819 with 2s 9d in his pocket and after trying various occupations, became a clerk in the Church of Ireland Sunday School Office.

Our coach party departs from Enniskillen at 7:30am and is picking up passengers at Maguiresbridge, Clogher, Aughnacloy and Monaghan (at the entrance to St Macartan’s College. 8:15am) for the trip to Dublin. Dr Frank Brennan a member of the Executive Committee will be our guide on reaching Castleknock.

“Frank Brennan will conduct a tour through Phoenix Park with its numerous historical monuments and associations going back hundreds of years, travel along Dublin’s quays, Four Courts, Guinness’ brewery, Dublin Castle, the two cathedrals, Jewish area and into Ranelagh which developed as a genteel middle class suburb after the Act of Union. At Sandford Church we will be addressed by a local teacher, who is a member of the congregation, on the history of Sandford church and its connection with Carleton. The Ranelagh Arts Society will then provide a talk by Susan Roundtree, an architectural historian, on the development of 19thC Ranelagh and the connection with the Plunkett family, who played a major role in Irish history.

We then go to Mount Jerome cemetery for a short ceremony (2pm) to commemorate the 144th anniversary of William Carleton’s death. A member of the Ranelagh Arts Society will then conduct a short tour of the graveyard. We travel to lunch (4pm) at O’Briens at Sussex Place, Upper Leeson Street, one of Patrick Kavanagh’s haunts, which as a 1900’s grocery and bar reminded him of Carrickmacross. The journey to lunch will take us through Dublin’s two Georgian squares  and past Government Buildings. Finally after lunch (which participants will pay for themselves) Frank Brennan will bring us past the Grand Canal Theatre, National Convention Centre, and some other of the better relics of the Celtic Tiger before our return home.”


Sandford Church, Ranelagh

Sandford Church, Ranelagh

Those joining the event in Ranelagh should assemble at the church at Sandford Road Ranelagh (junction with Marlborough Road) around 12:30pm. The group from the bus is hoping to walk from the site of Carleton’s now demolished former residence at Woodville, Sandford Road (beside the entrance to Milltown Park) to the church, weather permitting. In his latter years Carleton was friendly with a Jesuit priest Fr Robert Carbery, who was based at Milltown Park.  In the last weeks before his death in January 1869, the priest offered through Carleton’s wife Jane to give him the last rites of the Catholic church. In response, in one of his last communications, the author told the Jesuit:

“For half a century & more I have not belonged to the Roman Catholic religion. I am now a Protestant and shall will die such”     (LA15/319 DJ O’Donoghue papers, UCD Archives)

Milltown Park looking towards area where Carleton used to live

Milltown Park looking towards area where Carleton lived

Our thanks to the Reverend Sonia Gyles, Rector of Sandford and St Philip’s Milltown, for making the church available. Admission to the talks is FREE but membership of the William Carleton Society (€5) will be available for those interested. There is no charge for the tour at Mount Jerome cemetery. Participants will pay for their own lunches.

Woodville Ranelagh

House at Sandford, in which Carleton died

It promises to a be stimulating and interesting day.  The coach will return to Enniskillen by 9pm.  The William Carleton Society is a partner in the Shared History, Shared Future project run by Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council through the EU funded South West Peace III Partnership Programme and this activity is being delivered through it.

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nujlogo_burgundyThe announcement by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland that there will be no prosecution in the case of the killing of NUJ member and former Belfast Branch Secretary Martin O’Hagan is extremely disappointing and has been criticised by the union. I can understand the reaction of his family. His brother Fintan, quoted by BBC NI, said there was a witness who wanted to tell a court who killed Martin, yet the Public Prosecution Service was depriving that witness the opportunity of telling the court his account and further depriving the court of the opportunity to consider the truthfulness or otherwise of that evidence and depriving the family, and indeed the public, of the opportunity to see justice in action. “Justice needs not just to be done, it needs to be seen to be done”, he added.    PPSNI

He was responding to the statement by DPP Barra McGrory that after very careful consideration of all the available evidence, including that of an assisting offender, Neil Hyde, a decision had been taken not to prosecute in the murder case. This was owing to the absence of any corroboration of the evidence. When Hyde was jailed in February 2012 for three years, the judge told him that if he had not agreed to identify the alleged culprits in Mr O’Hagan’s murder and give evidence about the activities of the outlawed LVF, he would have been jailed for 18 years. Mr O’Hagan, a Sunday World journalist, was shot dead as he was walking home with his wife in Lurgan in 2001.

Sunday World Northern Editor Jim McDowell said he was angry and annoyed at Friday’s announcement. “Myself and the staff have worked hard since that black Friday in September 2001 to try to get justice for Martin O’Hagan. It now seems, that old adage, while there there may be law in this country, where is the justice?” He said the decision would not diminish in any way the paper’s resolve to continue to try to get justice for Martin.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has expressed grave disappointment at the announcement by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland that a decision has been taken not to prosecute in the Martin O’Hagan murder case. Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley said the union was disturbed by the announcement. “This union does not accept that the State can walk away from this case. The murder of Martin O’Hagan was an outrageous act of violence which cannot go unpunished. We will continue to campaign for a full investigation leading to the conviction of those responsible for the murder of our friend and colleague“, he said.



A draw tonight for the Dons but if you are looking for a match report, look further down! I am going to reflect first of all on how my past was catching up with me today, taking in Dublin, Belfast and of course London, where the League Two match was played. I started the day in Dublin and as I began my journey northwards this afternoon, passed Milltown Park, where the Jesuit Provincialate is based. The complex used to be used for the training of Jesuit priests but now many of the buildings are leased. The Irish School of Ecumenics has its headquarters there. I was investigating the story of William Carleton, which I will be writing about on Saturday when we visit Sandford church.

I was on the trail of a Fr John Carbery SJ, who was based at Milltown Park and was in touch with Carleton, a neighbour, before his death in 1869. I was given some helpful information about the Jesuit archives. As I left the building I saw a rugby pitch which is now leased to nearby Gonzaga College, where I went to school for two years. In those days, the school rugby pitches were beside Glenmalure Park, home of Shamrock Rovers FC. I have written about their history and revival at Tallaght here.

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon

Sacred Heart Church, Wimbledon

In conversation with a Jesuit brother, I discussed how the order has decided to withdraw from the Sacred Heart parish in Wimbledon, where I grew up, owing to the shortage of priests. It was during my schooldays at Wimbledon College from 1963 that I started following Wimbledon FC at Plough Lane, then in their last season in the Isthmian League, having won the FA Amateur Cup thanks to Eddie Reynolds.  The following season they entered the Southern League first division as semi-professionals. Tonight as I followed them live on Sky Sports, I was wearing a Wimbledon supporters’ badge dating to the 1974/75 season when they were Southern League champions.

I went to (the) Chelsea to watch the match: my local bar on the Lisburn Road in Belfast. Another London connection! Anyway the televisions were showing some music channel but the bar staff kindly offered to turn over to Sky so that I could see the Dons in action, minus the commentary. I was delighted to see Jack Midson getting the opening score and then making it a double strike thanks to a penalty. His was one of the few recognisable names as the players came out of the tunnel before the kick-off. AFC Wimbledon were then unlucky I thought to concede a goal to Port Vale just before half time, making it 2-1. A lucky bounce on a well-struck drive eluded the keeper Neil Sullivan.

Jack  MIdson

Jack Midson

The second half saw some good chances for AFC Wimbledon including an effort by Midson that could have brought his hat-trick but was ruled offside. Then a bad back pass by Mat Mitchel-King and a mistake by Sullivan saw Port Vale equalising 2-2. The Dons held out against the league leaders and manager Neil Ardley will be pleased enough to come away with one point. But the Dons are still perilously close to the bottom place in the table and need to start winning a few games if they are to escape relegation back to the Conference. A full report on the match “Plucky Dons Deny Vale” can be found on the club ‘s website.


Bradford City FCIt was, as the BBC reporter described it, the stuff of fairy tales. Minnows Bradford City became the first League Two (fourth tier) side in English football to reach the final of the League Cup in fifty years. The last was Rochdale in 1962. Getting to Wembley is expected to earn the club £1 million pounds. Not bad going for a side who had two pre-season friendlies in Ireland (both wins) against Wexford Youths and Bray Wanderers. Shortly afterwards at the start of the season, they hammered the team I support, AFC Wimbledon, 5-1 at the Coral Windows stadium at Valley Parade in front of a crowd of nearly 9,500. On the bench that day was a young Donegal lad Carl McHugh from Lettermacaward, who had just joined the Bantams and made his League Cup debut a few days later against Watford. In October the 19 year-old defender had his Football League debut and the following month his header helped Bradford to win their FA Cup match against Watford.

Carl McHugh, Bradford City

Carl McHugh, Bradford City

It was another header from McHugh that helped City win the first leg of their semi-final in the League Cup against Aston Villa. Although going down 2-1 last night in the return leg at Villa Park, their home win meant they went through 4-3 on aggregate. Ironically the first leg goal by McHugh was put past one of his football heroes, Irish international keeper Shay Given, who is also a Donegal man. Mc Hugh is clearly a rising star. He began on a scholarship with Reading when he was 16, then played on loan for Swindon Supermarine and then Dundalk in the Eircom League. He has represented his country at under 17 and under 19 level.

This is the biggest achievement by Bradford since they won the FA Cup in 1911. Looking at their history, I discover that like Wimbledon, they were once in the Premiership. At the end of the 1999/2000 season,  “Sunday 14th May saw Liverpool at the Bradford & Bingley Stadium (as it was then called) and Bradford knew they had to better Wimbledon’s result, who were playing at Southampton, to ensure they stayed in the Premiership and condemn fellow strugglers the Dons, who were level with City on points but had a better goal difference. A 12th minute header from David Wetherall and a 2-0 defeat for Wimbledon sent the whole of Bradford into raptures and saw Premiership football at Valley Parade for another season.”  It was the finish of a fourteen year stay in the top tier for the Dons, who were managed by Terry Burton at the time and were playing their home games at Selhurst Park. It was also the beginning of the end for the club, as moves began against the wishes of most fans to relocate to Milton Keynes, sixty miles away.    capitalonecup

I wish Bradford every success on February 24th at Wembley against Swansea City, who had a goalless draw against Chelsea tonight and won on aggregate 2-0. But I very much hope AFC Wimbledon’s form will have improved by February 16th, when their home match against Bradford is scheduled. The Dons lost to Stevenage 3-1 in the first round of the Capital One Cup in August. They are currently struggling second from bottom, in the relegation zone of nPower League Two but you can watch them in action tomorrow night against Port Vale LIVE on Sky Sports, kick-off 19:45 (weather permitting). Today a major snow-clearing operation was mounted with the help of 60 supporters and under-18 players, in order to ensure that the pitch at Kingsmeadow would be playable.


Fr Tony Flannery (RTÉ News)

Fr Tony Flannery (RTÉ News) 

The Vatican is threatening to dismiss an Irish priest from the Redemptorist order who has unorthodox views on the question of women priests and contraception. Fr Tony Flannery was told nearly a year ago he was suspended from his ministry in County Galway. He was advised to go to a monastery and in the Latin expression credited to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, to think with the church: “sentire cum ecclesia”. He had been a founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland in autumn 2010. Now the 66 year-old cleric who was ordained in 1975 has been given an ultimatum by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. According to the Irish Times, he told a news conference in Dublin he will only be allowed back into ministry if he writes, signs and publishes an article – to be pre-approved by the CDF – accepting that the Catholic Church can never ordain women to the priesthood and accepting all church stances on contraception, homosexuality, as well as the refusal of the sacraments to people in second relationships.

As Fr Flannery himself summed up his situation: “I either put my name to a document that would be a lie, and would impugn my integrity and my conscience, or I face the reality of never again ministering as a priest”. Fr Flannery says he believes the real aim of the CDF is to suppress the Association of Catholic Priests. But he is adamant that “no matter what sanctions the Vatican imposes on me I will continue, in whatever way I can, to try to bring about reform in the church and to make it again a place where all who want to follow Christ will be welcome”.

The letters columns in the Irish Times contains a number of responses to the situation the priest finds himself in. From another rebel cleric self-styled “Bishop” Pat Buckley from Larne came the following:  “Sir, – Twenty-six years ago they came for me and no one did anything. Today they have come for Fr Tony Flannery. Tomorrow they will come for you”. A lay group called We Are Church Ireland will be staging a vigil at the Papal Nunciature in Dublin on Sunday 27th January at 3pm in support of the Redemptorist. A representative of the group also welcomed the statement from Fr Flannery’s order. They said although not all Redemptorists would accept Fr Flannery’s views on all matters, they do understand and support his efforts to listen carefully to and at times to articulate the views of people he encounters in the course of his ministry. They expressed the hope that even at this late stage, an agreed resolution could be found. Update: THIS STATEMENT TO WHICH I HAD PROVIDED A LINK HAS NOW BEEN REPLACED ON THE IRISH CONGREGATION’S WEBSITE BY A NEW STATEMENT FROM THE SUPERIOR GENERAL (see below).

One correspondent from County Dublin however poses the following question: why does Fr Tony not have the courage of his convictions by officially becoming a Protestant? The writer claims that the cleric’s views are Protestant ones, not Catholic. Fr Tony certainly finds himself now with a very difficult choice to make. Many non-Catholics might be left wondering whether the curia in Rome is more intent on expelling turbulent priests who disagree with some church teachings, rather than cracking down on the problem of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland and elsewhere, which remained hidden for so many years.

In further developments, the Rome-based Superior of the Redemptorist Order, Fr Michael Brehl C.Ss.R., has said he deeply regrets the recent actions by Fr Flannery who as mentioned earlier, had held a news conference in Dublin. The full statement by Fr Brehl in which he asks Fr Flannery to renew efforts to find an agreed solution to the concerns raised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can be found here, replacing a statement issued earlier in the week by Fr Flannery’s confreres in the Irish Province.

In the Irish Times, Patsy McGarry reports that documents seen by the paper confirm that Fr Flannery was threatened with excommunication by the Vatican. It looks like there will be more developments in this case over the next few months.