PASSIONIST priest Fr Aidan Troy, who was at the heart of the 2001 Holy Cross dispute, has spoken of how he went to confession in Clonard the day after he learned his life was under threat. The Bray-born priest, who has worked in an English-speaking parish in Paris since september 2008, said police in five Land Rovers came to his door one Friday night and offered to drive him close to the border. A police officer told him they had intelligence that he would be killed that weekend. The officer offered to take him as far as Killean in Co Armagh and asked if someone could meet him there. He said he refused to leave the parochial house, against police advice.
"i didn't go because i said to him, 'we might as well hang a notice on the gate and say this man is under threat'," Fr troy told RTE Radio one yesterday.
"I was afraid, not so much for myself but if people thought that, they maybe could have decided to take their own action."
Fr troy said the Irish government also offered him an apartment in Belfast and a driver for the weekend, but he refused. The morning after he was told of the threat, he made a confession at Clonard Monastery in west Belfast.
"I said to myself, if i'm going to be killed, i may as well be in the state of grace," he said.
He said although he still misses Belfast, he has felt "richly rewarded" by his experiences in Paris. The priest, along with colleague Fr Gary Donegan, helped escort Catholic schoolgirls from Holy Cross Girls Primary past hundreds of hostile loyalists each day in 2001.
Fr troy said education remains a "vexed question" in the north but is one that must be addressed.
"as i think my record would be fairly clear i put my life on the line for Catholic schools but i don't think it's enough just to say we'll educate the children and then afterwards they'll get to know one another," he said.