Northern Ireland news

Fr Patrick McCafferty: McConnell case 'waste of money'

Pastor McConnell with Fr Patrick McCafferty outside Laganside court during an earlier hearing. Picture by Matt Bohill

A priest has criticised the case against Pastor James McConnell as a "waste of public resources".

Fr Patrick McCafferty, who is based in Crossgar, Co Down, acted as a character witness for the preacher during his trial.

He said while he strongly disagreed with Mr McConnell's remarks, the case should never have been brought to court, particularly given the pastor's age.

"I am glad that it's over for him. It was a waste of time and a waste of public resources that it went as far as it did," he told The Irish News.

"When it comes to religion, often there are polemics used. They have been part of inter-religious debates for centuries. Things do get heated."

Fr McCafferty said he first met Mr McConnell when he challenged him about offensive comments he made about the Catholic Church several years ago.

"I took him on, I didn't take him to court," he said. "Engagement and dialogue with people is a much more mature approach.

"I am just glad it ended successfully in his favour."

He said Mr McConnell had not expressed himself well during his contentious sermon in May 2014, but it was a case of freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

"He did qualify during the case that he was thinking of extremists and radicalised people within Islam, who are a threat, those who have no qualms about walking into a public place and setting off a bomb or firing a gun and killing people.

"But he didn't particularly put it well at the time."

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