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Thursday 18 January 2018

Let's not push Porter 'over the edge', warns worried Bishop Walsh

Bishop Eamonn Walsh has called for ‘more understanding’ in the case of Al Porter
Bishop Eamonn Walsh has called for ‘more understanding’ in the case of Al Porter

A bishop has appealed for more understanding when it comes to comedian Al Porter in the wake of his recent fall from grace.

Dublin Auxiliary Bishop Eamonn Walsh said he would like to see less judgment regarding the case of the former Today FM and TV3 presenter.

Porter resigned from a number of jobs after he was hit last November with a wave of allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

In his annual Christmas homily, the senior clergyman with special responsibility for Tallaght referred to the troubles faced by a "local comedian" and said: "May heads on plates be off the menu in 2018."

Difficulties

Expanding on what he said during Mass, he told the Herald that "there are always two sides to every story".

"Let's not jump to judgment without the facts, and we have to be aware that there may be judicial proceedings down the line, so I wouldn't like to say anything that would interfere with that," he said.

"He's a man who has spok-en out about difficulties with mental health issues and we do not want to push him over the edge, and you have to think there's always people behind these things.

"A person is not a commodity - we all have family and friends. Everybody's so self-righteous these days."

Dr Walsh, who is also a qualified barrister, said that in any situation of conflict, "it's never just black or white".

"You have to remember, everybody's somebody's son or daughter," he said.

"If you sit in a courtroom and listen, you have one mother whose son has been murdered and she's hoping the person who did it will burn in hell, and you have another mother on the other side.

"That's the drama of life, and we have to get a balance in it."

When asked about speaking out in a public show of support for Tallaght comedian Porter, Dr Walsh added: "All I did was send a message. I'm happy to stand over what I said."

In his annual message, the outspoken bishop said at one Mass that was attended by Mr Porter's mother, Marian - who is a parish secretary - that he hoped to see some positive changes in 2018.

He expressed his wishes that this would be the year when "we allow justice to take its course, and not usurp it through public condemnation, humiliation and sentence without trial".

"May the darkness that was visited on our local comedian, before justice to all could be processed, be replaced with balance, proper proportion and fair play, so that he may feel free and welcome to make us laugh again," he added.

The 73-year-old cleric has served as an Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin for the past 27 years.

Between 2002 and 2006, he also administered the diocese of Ferns, following the resignation of Bishop Brendan Comiskey.

Dr Walsh's plea for more understanding for Porter was greeted by support online.

Actor Rory Cowan, who filled in for Porter in the Olympia Theatre panto, was among those who praised Dr Walsh for his stance.

"Well said, Bishop Eamonn Walsh. It needed to be said," he wrote.

Porter was hit by a storm of allegations of inappropriate behaviour from several Irish comedians, as well as a former patient in St Patrick's Hospital who claimed he groped him during an incident in 2015.

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