From a Blog reader

The recent revelation about how the Catholic priest Fr Ryan was the IRA’s major gunrunner and a former Pallotine priest is especially disturbing and I hope, despite being in his 90’s that he is arrested, tried and sentenced.

I don’t know if you know of the case of Fr Patrick Fell – The Fall of Fr Fell – he was a curate at All Soul’s Earlsdon, Coventry, in the early 1970’s and was, in fact, a commander of an active IRA unit who was tried and sentenced to 12 years for planning a bombing campaign against the people of Coventry.

After serving his sentence he retired to Donegal and served as a parish priest – he died there in 2011.

I have wondered what if anything his fellow clergy and church hierarchy knew about his terrorist activity – it is remarkable to say Mass on Sunday and plan a bombing campaign on Monday!!

I have often wondered what his parishioners thought of his arrest and sentence and whether the parishioners in the parish in Donegal (where he relocated) had any notion/idea of his past.

This much I know – this news was quickly buried and that is the way the clergy and the hierarchy like it – dead and buried and never discussed or brought out into the open and light where it should be!

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you about it – it dovetailed for me with the Fr Ryan case – only Fr Fell was caught and went to prison – as Fr Ryan should!

Thank you again for your blog – I enjoy your books too and am very interested in your knowledge of Archbishop John McQuaid – whose biography I am currently reading.

I met Cardinal Daly on a number of occasions and was always struck by how little he was but also how impatient -and him a philosopher!!


Among the least publicised Catholic priest IRA members was Fr. Patrick Fell who was sentenced to twelve years in prison in Birmingham, England, in 1973 alongside IRA volunteers Frank Stagg, Thomas Rush and Anthony Lynch for conspiracy to cause explosions in Coventry. [Frank Stagg later died on hungerstrike in Wakefield prison in February 1976.] Fell was the leader of the IRA unit while Stagg, who was sentenced to ten years, was his deputy. Fell’s conviction and imprisonment did not cause any particular shock or horror to the Catholic church or to the State at the time – he was viewed as an errant priest who got caught.

Patrick Fell had been a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism who then became a Catholic priest in Coventry. It was after some years of ministry that he joined the IRA. During his time in prison, mostly on the Isle of Wight, he began an application to the ECHR but his politics changed dramatically when his fellow prisoners beat him severely believing that he had had a homosexual relationship with another prisoner which was thought at that time to be unthinkably unRepublican.

He never again showed interest in Sinn Féin or the IRA and upon his release travelled to Donegal where he was, rather surprisingly, incardinated into the Raphoe diocese and allowed to serve until he died in 2011.

Fell effectively repented his earlier involvement with the IRA and lived a quiet and fairly blameless life after serving his time. His dalliance with the IRA didn’t work out well for him either in political or in personal terms.


Father Patrick Ryan and Father Patrick Fell (two Patricks) both had one thing in common. They were both involved in the IRA and in bombing and killing and fundraising.

And them there was Father James Chesney the Derry IRA quarter master general who was involved in the Claudy bombing.

I’m sure there others that we do not yet know about?

I can understand a priest being a Republican or Irish nationalist – but not a shoter or bomber. Its goes against all that true Christianity and true discipleship is all about.

Of course, priests can be angered by injustices suffered by their people at the hands of the state, its police or its armed forces.

And, over 800 years on Ireland,the Brits are responsible for many atrocities and injustices, and murders.

Then we the Irish have blood on our hands too from all our years of armed resistance.

Many loyalists believed that all priests were IRA supporters.

When I first came to loyalist Larne in 1984 two gunmen came looking for me with guns. Fortunately I was out. The next say the RUC aarrived and bullet proofed all my doors and windows and presented me with a Walther automatic pistol for self protection.

The loyalists assumed that because I served in Divis Flats on the Falls Road I must have been a Provo.

In Divis, and in Kilkeel, I did try and protect my parishioners from the excesses of the RUC and UDR.

And when my parishioners were in need and trouble I was not found wanting in spite of great risks.

But we cannot stray across the line that divides champions of justice and human rights from paramilitary activists.

The Supreme Priest – Jesus – does not allow that in his teachings.