Republic of Ireland news

Daniel O'Donnell and Nathan Carter face backlash over Pope Francis gig

Country stars Daniel O'Donnell and Nathan Carter. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Brendan Hughes

SINGERS Daniel O'Donnell and Nathan Carter have been embroiled in backlashes over plans to perform for Pope Francis at Croke Park.

Fellow country singer James Kilbane questioned Daniel's inclusion in the star-studded concert given that he supported a 'Yes' vote in the Republic's 2015 gay marriage referendum.

And singing priest Fr Ray Kelly is outraged that Carter will perform an REM song the cleric sang on Britain's Got Talent.

A host of artists including The Begley Family and The Priests are to perform on August 25 at the Festival of Families, which the Pope will attend as part of his two-day visit to Ireland.

The unholy rows hit the airwaves yesterday as broadcaster Joe Duffy fielded calls from both critics and supporters on RTÉ Radio One's Liveline programme.

At the weekend Kilbane, a runner-up on RTÉ talent show You're A Star, questioned Co Donegal singer Daniel O'Donnell's credentials to perform at the concert.

James Kilbane. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

The devout Catholic told The Irish Sun: "How can Daniel O'Donnell perform for the Pope when his Yes stance in the gay marriage referendum was directly opposed to the Catholic Church here?

"What's more, I believe Daniel O'Donnell's Yes stance in the referendum may have influenced many Catholic people to vote Yes in the referendum.

"Of course everybody is entitled to their opinion and democratic vote but I think the organisers of this event have questions to answer about this choice of act.

"How can some artists be at odds with the beliefs of the Catholic Church and yet be booked for a high-profile event in front of the Pope?"

Irish priest Fr Ray Kelly who impressed judges on Britain's Got Talent

However, some callers to Liveline gave their support to O'Donnell. Priest Fr Michael Cusack told the programme he found Kilbane's comments "offensive to Catholicism in many ways".

Meanwhile, Fr Kelly hit out after learning that Carter is to perform REM song Everybody Hurts, which the cleric performed on Britain's Got Talent earlier this year.

The Co Meath priest, who first came to public prominence in 2014 after his performance at a wedding of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah became a YouTube sensation, told The Irish Sun he was "completely shocked" when he heard Carter would be performing the song.

Pope Francis and Daniel O'Donnell

"Nathan has no history of performing Everybody Hurts. He has never recorded it and I'm sure he is well aware of my performances on Britain's Got Talent," he said.

"If I was as big as Nathan Carter, and he was me, I would never do this to another performer. I'm shocked but my parishioners have also been calling me to say they are outraged about him taking my song.

"My hope is that Nathan will do a brilliant job on it but my own personal view, is that not having performed it in public before, I'm not sure he will put the emotion in it."

Pope Francis

Fr Kelly told Liveline he would love to perform for the Pope's visit, and questioned whether Carter was paired with the REM song because organisers recalled it from the 1990s or from Britain's Got Talent.

However, reacting to the rows, one caller told Liveline: "When the Pope leaves for Rome, he won't remember who sang for him. I think it's all much ado about nothing."

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