WRC agreed that Holy Communion mass did not constitute a service within legislation

Sean McCárthaigh 31, 2020 The Irish Times.

A claim of discrimination against a Catholic bishop by a Traveller family over their alleged treatment at a Holy Communion mass five years ago has been dismissed by the Workplace Relations Commission.

The WRC ruled that it had no legal authority to adjudicate on 10 individual complaints by members of the Sherlock family that they had been discriminated against by the then bishop of Galway Martin Drennan when they attempted to attend the mass on May 23rd, 2015.

The family, which includes six children, also alleged they were harassed at the ceremony.

They claimed Traveller women were excluded from the mass based on a dress code, even though other women who were wearing elements of clothing that were deemed inadmissible were not asked to leave the church.

The Sherlocks said they were barred due to the length of their dresses and skirts and their necklines.

Bishop Drennan, who retired as bishop of Galway in July 2016, rejected all allegations that he had discriminated against them on grounds of gender, race and their membership of the Traveller community under Section 21 of the Equal Status Act 2000.

The WRC agreed with a preliminary legal argument raised by representatives for Bishop Drennan that the Holy Communion mass provided by the Catholic Church as a religious service did not constitute a service within the meaning of the legislation.

As a consequence, WRC adjudicator, Louise Boyle, said Bishop Drennan had not engaged in prohibited conduct.

Detailed evidence in the case was not heard as a result of the WRC’s ruling on the preliminary challenge raised by the bishop’s legal representatives.

They claimed it was never the intention of the Oireachtas for religious services to fall within the jurisdiction of the legislation.

The Sherlock family had argued that the Catholic Church was the provider of a service as under the legislation a mass was a “service or facility of any nature which is available to the public generally or a section of the public”.

They said there was no exclusion clause in the Equal Status Act 2000 that allowed negative discrimination to occur.

However, the WRC said religious services or sacraments did not come within the ambit of the legislation as otherwise it would be unlawful for churches to refuse the sacrament of matrimony to persons who were divorced or of the same sex, or similarly to only ordain men as priests.

“There seems to be no reason in law or logic to differentiate between these types of religious services and a Holy Communion mass,” said Ms Boyle.

She added: “If the Oireachtas had intended to apply the principle of equal status, enshrined in the Act, to all of these situations, it would have said so in express terms.”


This is a very sad case and really shouldn’t have happened.

I have ministered to the Travellers for 44 years now.

They really are a very separate and distinct cultural community.

The women in particular can have very different lives. They are really only “special” on 4 days in their lifetime when they get to wear white – their baptism, their Holy Communion their Confirmation and their wedding day.

The women like a particular style which involves very skinpy dresses bare lega and bare shoulders.

When they turn up to church like that they are not being disrespectful. They are just being themselves.

In fact they are very religious and respectful of priests and churches.

Don’t get me wrong. I have had Traveller weddings that required me to call the police and the ambulance.

But there is a way of talking to them and dealing with them.

You don’t disrespect them or make them feel second class.

They get abused a lot by people.

And some of the Travellets behave badly.

Drennan has never struck me as the sensitive type.

I think he can be sharp and abrupt.

Anyway well done to the Travellers for standing up for themselves.


Pat, I too have have ministered to many traveller families and still do, as do many priests. I have learned much from them and have been very kind. However, they have also caused much distress and behaved outrageously at ceremonies I have officiated at. Traveller families hsve their own culture and religious traditions which i respect but have been very difficult when it comes to religious celebrations. I don’t think It’s fair to make judgments about Bishop Brennan. I have done my utmost to be fair, respectful and caring to traveller families but sometimes they just create their own rules and show little regard for protocols!! . We should, as priests, be kind.


10.56: Pat, what do you want this article to discuss? Bishop Drennan or our challenges as a society with traveller families? I think It’s fair to say that the Church generally is very kind to traveller families. Incidentally, I found Bishop Drennan to be a reasonable person. Let’s not focus on him: The real issue is – racism against travellers. So, no need for a question mark after Bishop Drennan’s name. You’re being unnecessarily provocative.


Bishop Drennan was quite right the dress’s worn by these Traveller women are outrageous and disrespectful and not suitable to be worn in a Church. I’d like to know when this became a norm because it certainly was not they way they dressed in the 60’s and 70’s. They were always well covered wearing long clothes,some of them still wearing shawls, more than you could say for non travellers at that time.


I have had some horrendous displays of awful, indecent dress code by traveller families. I am respectful of their traditions but the racist card is used too often If you question them about anything. I had baptisms about one year ago where I facilitated a request by a family for baptisms on the normal Sunday for parish baptisms. The family created hell for everyone. Sorry, but we cannot always be making excuses for unacceptable behaviour.



Hi fly. It wasn’t me. I’ll ask Canon Matt what he knows. He gets around.
Yep it’s Hep for Dublin. Go on …you good thing….


There are some things that are not welcome in any century, you cretin and one of them is those tacky disgusting dresses travellers are now wearing. Another one is nasty gombeens like you.


Well now. WRC are right in saying they have no jurisdiction in matters of dress for Church However the point that non travellers were wearing revealing clothing and not asked to leave is fairly made point. Perhaps the travellers may have a case based on cultural and ethnic background. This could allegedly be cultural discrimination.


I have had many traveler baptisms and weddings and in 90 percent pf cases have found them disrespectful and bullying in their attitudes. They want what they want and everyone can go to hell. I have had them smoke in church, drink in church, fight in church, swear loudly in church. The argument that they have distinct traditions is a nonsense. Good behaviour applies to all. They turn up half naked for religious ceremonies, and I have never encountered settled people exhibiting such lack of dignity or respect. I’m delighted their attempt to extort money from the diocese of Galway has failed.


11.45: A superb comment. We cannot have any group, irrespective of their identity play the racist card when, in fact, they completely disregard other people’s beliefs and sensitivities. The behaviour of some traveller families at church ceremonies is outrageous and beyond acceptable.


Evan is one of the kindest guys I have met in Paisley, well known and can chat to anyone. Did he chuck you or something?


9:20 am

The behaviour of some priests at church as well as outside church
is outrageous and beyond acceptable but was tolerated and covered up their superiors.
What’s sauce for the goose.


10:03… I am friendly with someone who had an altercation with him last year. I was meant to be the organist at one of his masses the following week and was told 2 days before that I was not required. He was spotted there that evening and laughing away with Turpin.


His Masses? Was he serving for Turpin or something? I have met him a number of times and noticed he has attitude problems.


If a bishop has a seminarian living with him it shows very poor judgement on his part. He’s leaving himself wide open. Surely he wouldn’t be so stupid?


10:32 yesterday. Dear Pat, have these 2 Scottie lads given you their information on this Paisley chap? Please keep us updated!


Paisley chap does have attitude problems and is also very direct. His display of holiness during lockdown was a complete and utter joke.


8 47: .. And you need to find more useful things to do, you muppet!! Somehow, your intelligence level is -150! I’m being kind…


9:51, you tried to tip off Pat? You could phone him, text him, wattsapp him, tweet him, message him on Facebook, message him on here, FaceTime him, take a trip to larne, send a letter, send a postcard, send it via pigeon messenger.
‘tried’? – g’way with that craic!


Come on now, 9:51 am. Don’t come on here teazing us all like this lol. Dish the dirt, sweetheart.
I’ve got a double packet of Jaffa cakes here and the kettle is on lol x


I think the Traveller narrative of being a distinct ethnic / cultural group is a bit overdone. If truth be told, if they are that, it is because they have not bothered to properly integrate in some meaningful sense in to the mainstream, or have not been required to do so, and believe themselves able to dip in and out of a feral and unregulated life as and when it suits them. They take full advantage of that. When it suits them they will play the game and work and make money and live according to accepted norms, because that suits them. When it doesn’t suit them, they then make special pleading about their status and origins and culture etc. They like to have their cake, and they like to eat it at the same time, having it both ways. In the woke, politically correct atmosphere of our times, pretty much everybody lets them get away with it out of fear of being banded a racist or culturally insensitive or worse. The Travellers know this, and use it to their full advantage. By all means allow them to express themselves according to their cultural traditions, but those traditions and ways of doing things are still subject to the law, the norms of the society in which they find themselves, and I see no reason why we should not require this of them. Including acting in a dignified and respectful manner in dress and action when they come to church !


Why are we so hung up on what people wear to church,?

Years ago in Belfast a 18 year old young man, whose confessions I heard when he was in school, came to confession to me on a blisteringly hot Saturday afternoon. He was naked from the waist up.

My PP threw him out of the cathedral for not being properly dressed. I heard his confession in the grounds of the cathedral.

Would Jesus be so hung up on dress codes, especially when no disrespect is intended?


Your PP was absolutely right, it was totally unacceptable to enter a Church undressed in that manner. Your comment as to what Our Lord would say is typical of all freethinkers who presume that what they think is right. As a priest you should have explained to that person how inappropriate it was for him to behave like that. But I’ll bet you didn’t.


What about African women going to Mass with their boobs hanging out???


That is commonplace in Africa and wouldn’t cause the distraction it would here. You’re not comparing like with like.
In church the focus should be Christ, not the human body.


11.29: Tell us Pat when you’ll have the 1st Gay Nudist Mass with everything hanging loose? I wouldn’t be surprised: You fall for anything. Absolutely. We wear dress for a reason, you looper.


I was asked to celebrate a nudist wedding some time ago but declined. I recommended a Dublin priest who is a nudist.


11:29 am

Meanwhile priests were committing child rape inside and outside churches facilitated by the cover-up uppers.


Are you seriously suggesting that because there was abuse and facilitation of abuse in the church that everyone else can do anything they like? Classic “whataboutery”.


Until the 2018 revelations of alleged child sexual abuse by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the problem of bishops and major superiors who abuse had received little scrutiny. Yet a sexually abusive bishop or superior is exceptionally dangerous. His management of priests is skewed toward protecting his secret, beginning with the character of men he accepts to the seminary and the quality of their formation. When one of his priests is accused of sexual abuse, a bishop who is also an offender is unlikely to punish the priest or contact law enforcement. He is, inevitably, an enabler of other sexual criminals, harming not only his own victims, but those who are raped or assaulted by the abusive clerics to whom he gives safe harbor.
In the Catholic church, “sexual corruption is conferred from the top down – from men in power,” wrote celibacy scholar Richard Sipe. Bishops who sexually abuse seminarians, as McCarrick is canonically convicted of doing, and as Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell admitted doing, may establish what Sipe called “a genealogy of abuse,” setting up “a pattern of institutional secrecy.”
Despite the extensive harm done by abusive church leaders, few have been severely disciplined. Only seven have been laicized: Fernando Armindo Lugo Méndez of Paraguay (2008), Raymond J. Lahey of Canada (2012), Gabino Miranda Melgarejo of Peru (2013), Jósef Wesołowski of Poland (2014), Francisco José Cox Huneeus of Chile (2018), Marco Antonio Órdenes Fernández of Chile (2018), and Theodore McCarrick of the United States (2019).


That great song by the Saw Doctors (I useta love her once) gives a great insight into how attending mass is/was not a one-dimensional religious thing:
I useta see her up the chapel when she went to Sunday mass
And when she’d go to receive, I’d kneel down there
And watch her pass
The glory of her ass
So, to bring more people into the churches, maybe we should be importing ethnically dressed African congregations rather than African priests.


So why not come to church buck naked Pat? Sure who’ll bat an eyelid?
Immodest dress, immodest thoughts.
It isn’t prudery; it’s common sense.


Pat :
Have you heard anything about John Travolta 0 Leary ???

Big row with East Anglia Diocese

Took the in famous photo of Cardinal Carmel wearing the red hat.

Heard his skeletons have been rumbled….


All of the remaining bishops named below, even those found guilty under canon law, have been allowed to retain the title of bishop and to be called emeritus, a status that confers continued prestige and power. According to a 2008 document by the Congregation for Bishops, when a bishop becomes emeritus, he merely is beginning ‘a new phase of his ministry.’ Though relieved of administrative duties, he retains his membership in the college of bishops and continues to ‘collaborate in the governance of the church.’

See: Bishops Accused of Sexual Abuse and Misconduct -A Global Accounting


Hi everyone. I’ve just arrived in Blackpool to see the lights and can’t wait to get to Mass celebrated by that cutie pie Daniel Etienne. Such a lovely face and can’t wait to see what lacey number he dresses up in tonight. Hope the Mass is in Latin. Must be clever if he is in charge of 2 Parishes in his mid 20’s and only ordained a couple of years. Lovely and muscular too no doubt. Ooooffft.


You’re really classy aren’t you off to the illuminations? My taxes pay for your benefits


Check out the sleazy blackpool playroom. Trades hotel also very sleazy for meets upstairs at night.


If you want to read a book about how shit a Bishop was treated by that German Dictatator Benedict, google Bishop Bill Morris. He was the Bishop of Toowomba and was forced to retire after daring to suggest that married Priests should be considered for remote parts of his Diocese in Australia. Benedict treated him appallingly and the usual kangaroo court was held. His book “Benedict, me and the Cardinals three” is a fantastic read.


No. Never heard of it.

Why do these guys let the RCC bully them?

Why not go alone and fight them?


Seán was in his seventies when the CDF threatened him with laicisation and homelessness if he published anything critical of the Vatican’s rigid position on sexual morality.

This was sparked by a letter printed in the Irish Times and it’s still a mystery who brought it to the CDF’s attention.


Good choice + Pat. I’ve read a lot about him, the book is very touching. Totally shafted by the Pope and Cardinals just like you.


Surprised that Drennan was named in Murphy report cos I don’t recall it. Have a story in Galway. There was a friend of mine whose brother was abused by a ex priest in Renmore Church v long ago. He reporred to garda few years ago but dpp ruled it out cos 40 years too late. He was only 7 or 8 yrs old that time when abuse took place. That’s because his father didn’t believe him hence 40 years the more he found that priest, he left priesthood and worked in a factory with another fella that I knew. He left at right time from tip off from his diocese. Work mates found out later when that guy brother started to work at that factory. They were shocked re name of their ex work mate. He now works for SNAP as he was interviewed at CNN (USA) re abuse. Brave man.

Kangaroo court yes as Vatican or bishops don’t give priests a say or due process to defend themselves( who protested or wrote a blog re abuse), cos it’s part and parcel of justice.

How about putting on this blog re irish bishops.. The same way we treat them as they did to brave priests who spoke out against abuses and cover ups.


Can someone ring the old hag in Crossgar tonight so she can give us lads a heads up on the front page of the Sunday World. They do employ him next to the page of our daniel.


The “old hag” as you crudely referred to him @8.32pm is not a well man. The BBC consider him a liability now with all the cuts involved and have told him he is basically out of touch and out of date


Are these travelers the same folks that my Roscommon grandmother called Gypsies? She’d try to discipline us by telling us that she’d give us to them if we continue to misbehave.
She had an amusing story about them stealing pies from her family’s pub. Her mother worked out a deal with them in that she’d set aside Some pies for them and milk for their children. That did the trick.


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