Pensioner punched priest during Mass

A Churchill pensioner who punched a priest in the head appeared at Letterkenny District Court.

A Churchill pensioner who punched a priest in the head appeared at Letterkenny District Court.

66-year-old Seamus Doherty, of the Rock, Churchill, appeared charged with assaulting Fr. Michael McKeever, at St Colmcille’s Church in Glendowan, Church Hill on January 15, 2011. He was also charged with a number of public order offences on various other dates.

Garda Inspector David Kelly told the court at 7.45pm, Seamus Doherty entered the chruch sacristy where Fr. McKeever was preparing for evening Mass.

Doherty attempted to offer a donation of money but Fr. McKeever refused to accept it and asked him to leave, which he did.

When Mass began a short time later Doherty was in the congregation and got up and left. The priest then noticed him causing a disturbance at the back of the church before walking up the aisle towards the altar and began drinking from a bottle of whiskey.

Fr. McKeever attempted to lead him away and was assisted by three church goers after he refused to move.

Doherty became abusive and began shouting allegations that the clergy were responsible for the suicide of a local man, whose family were present in church at the time.

As he was being led out he punched Fr. McKeever in the forehead.

The court was told the defendant has 13 previous convictions.

Defence solicitor, Frank Dorrian, said most of his previous convictions related to intoxication and he also has serious mental health problems.

This resulted in his behaviour becoming “erratic” at times but now while he was sober he wished to apologise for his “outrageous conduct”, the solicitor said.

He said he was intoxicated and “beyond reason” at the time and made “an absolute show of himself” in his local community.

Fr. McKeever was uninjured in the assault, the court heard.

Judge Paul Kelly said the defendant was a “serious risk” to himself and members of the community by his behaviour.

“I can think of few things more distressing than the comments made to the young man’s family,” he stated.

Judge Kelly said a medical report “clearly indicates a problem”.

He adjourned the case until March 15 for a Probation Report.