Wednesday 26 June 2019

'I would get punched if I protested Pope's visit' - dancing priest Horan

Former priest Neil Horan. Photo: PA
Former priest Neil Horan. Photo: PA

A defrocked cleric with a habit of protesting the Pope won't be at Phoenix Park this month, in case the religious crowd beats him up.

Dancing priest Neil Horan, who once ruined a marathon runner's chance at Olympic gold, believes it would be too dangerous to demonstrate when the pontiff visits Ireland later this month - and that's only if he got past security anyway.

Despite his view that the Irish people are "very moderate", close friends warned him that "the more devoted Catholics" could get upset by his usual antics.

He previously tried to stage a protest in the Vatican when he travelled to Rome ahead of Pope Francis's Christmas message in 2016.

However, he was quickly surrounded by security just outside the boundaries of the Vatican and bundled off to a police station in the Italian capital for 10 hours.

Yet the Kerry-born former clergyman has vowed he will not be causing any trouble this time round for Pope Francis.

The news will be welcomed by both the pontiff's crack Swiss guard team and garda chiefs, who have mounted a huge security operation ahead of the Pope's two-day visit on August 25-26.

Although London-based Horan had considered returning to Ireland for the historic event, he admitted he was worried about putting himself in personal danger if he attempted to stage an anti-papal demonstration.


"I'm not coming over, because I don't think it would be safe for me to do so. Irish people are on the whole very moderate, but I think the more devoted followers of the Catholic Church wouldn't take kindly to seeing me over there. I know there are some people that think I'm a national disgrace, and they'd prefer if I stayed away from the Pope's visit," he said.

"I think I'd be quite vulnerable if I staged a demonstration, and a few people have warned me I might get attacked or punched.

Fr Neil Horan disrupting the 2004 Olympics
Fr Neil Horan disrupting the 2004 Olympics

"It's one thing staging a protest in England, which is not a very religious country, but it's quite a different matter to do it in Ireland, a country shaped by the Roman Catholic Church."

Horan added: "I still stage my demonstrations, and was out recently for the Trump visit to the UK, and before that for Prince Harry's and Meghan Markle's wedding. But even if I was coming over to Ireland for the Pope's visit, I don't think I'd get near any of the events because the security's going to be too tight."

Horan, who danced on Britain's Got Talent, has disrupted dozens of high-profile events over the years.

At the Olympics in 2004 he ruined Brazilian marathon runner Vanderlei de Lima's chances of winning a gold medal when he pounced on the race leader in the closing stages of the competition. And the previous year he almost got himself killed when he invaded the track at the British Grand Prix.

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