Fr Gary Donegan gets Colombia peace invite


FR Gary Donegan, CP, the Newtownbutler-born member of the Passionist Order now based in Crossgar, County Down is packing his bags for a New Year ‘peace talks’ trip to Colombia in the New Year.

He recently transferred from pastorship (parish priest) of Ardoyne where he made a name for himself shepherding children from Holy Cross Primary School who were forced to run the gauntlet during a five-month blockade by angry Protestant neighbours.

He received death threats arising from that episode and, from dissidents, for speaking out against drug abuse and paramilitary activity.


The issues he will face in brokering a peace deal between the Colombian and FARC, the Marxist guerilla gang, will, therefore, have a familiar ring, not least the fact that he has reprimanded the PSNI for heavy-handedness.,

Recently, he was invited to Stormont to meet the first and deputy first ministers at Stormont Castle.

Arlene Foster explained that Fr Donegan was invited to the meeting because she and the deputy first ministers wanted “to stand in solidarity with him’.

More recently, his peace broker role between local residents and Orangemen led to the dismantling of the barricade in Twaddell Avenue.

He has spoken openly of how he sees his role as pastor, and about death threats.

“I’m not a politician or a humanitarian or a social worker – I’m a priest. I’m actually meant to work for all aspects of the community and I will continue to do so and no-one will deter me.

“To these people who are allegedly making these threats, real or imagined, the reality is come and talk. I’m not afraid to speak to anybody, the door is open to you all.”


“The question is: what do they think a Catholic priest is supposed to do? I am 25 years a priest and, in that time, I have never followed anything apart from the Gospel.”

One of last pastoral duties as parish priest of Ardoyne was to preside at the return in September last, after an eight-year absence, of the Lay Passionist Mission at Holy Cross Church.

In past missions cancer sufferers and former drug and alcohol abusers have addressed the mission and spoke of how they returned to the church after losing their faith.

The speakers included those who had fallen away from faith.

Last week, Fr Gary was a guest at Belfast City Hall at a reception in his honour to recognise he had done for the people of Belfast.

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