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Priest says Iona Institute didn't handle homophobia debate well

Fr Brendan Hoban said Iona’s ‘rush to the legal eagles’ was unwise.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

A PRIEST HAS criticised the Iona Institute for its response after some members were named on RTÉ when drag artist Rory O’Neill was asked for examples of homophobia.

Fr Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholic Priests said that Iona’s ‘rush to the legal eagles for their pound of flesh from RTE was both surprising and unwise’.

“If you claim a role in public discourse then you can’t complain about the unwritten rules,” he wrote. “It’s just part of the cut and thrust of debate. There’s no place for wilting violets”.

Fr Hoban said that he believed the Iona Institute would probably not pursue legal action again if the same events unfolded, and would instead have opted for one of the alternatives offered by RTE, including a right of reply and a donation to charity.

RTE paid out €85,000 to five people amid claims of defamation after the comments were made by Rory O’Neill in response to a direct question from Brendan O’Connor on The Saturday Night Show in January.

The priest said that the Iona Institute could have claimed “the higher ground” by not pursuing legal action in what looked like a “selfish rush to financially milk RTE’s predicament”.

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“What Iona has effectively delivered is a new hero to those in favour of same-sex marriage while at the same time allowing itself to be manoeuvred into the role of demon, a soft target now for media people nervous (as they would see it) of opportunist litigants,” he wrote on the ACP website.

“Iona made a mistake and I’ve no doubt they would undo that error of judgement now if they [had] the chance”.

Fr Hoban is a founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests, which supports priests who are outspoken on social and economic issues.

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Christine Bohan

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