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16 December 1999 Edition

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How the mighty has `Faulen'

BY PEADAR WHELAN

When up to 500 citizens of the Tyrone parish of Termonmaguirc gathered in the Patrician Hall in Carrickmore last Sunday night, their anger was evident. They were angry that their parish priest had been holding secret meetings with the RUC.

They were furious that the RUC, an unwanted and discredited force that they reject, was being shown an open door into their community by their priest.

By the end of the night, the majority of those present had signed a petition calling on Catholic Primate Archbishop Sean Brady to bring about the end of their parish priest's ``tenure here before lasting damage is done to the church''.

The priest in question is Fr Denis Faul. That should come as no surprise to nationalists and republicans throughout Ireland. For many years now, particularly since his infamous attempts to undermine the 1981 H Block hunger strike, Faul has had his political axe sharpened for republicans.

But his recent attempts to sanitise the RUC's past has lead him into direct conflict with nationalists whose experiences of that force has been the death of their loved ones, torture and harassment.

Responding to the Patten Report, Faul said that it would be an insult to the RUC were the name `Royal Ulster Constabulary' to be changed.

So what brought about Sunday night's public meeting? On Tuesday evening, 7 December, at about 8.30pm, a 40-strong group of people from the Termonmaguirc parish stormed a meeting being held in the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh, described as a Unionist hotel.

There they found Fr Faul and other members of their parish involved in a meeting of the Community and Police Forum involving the RUC. They were caught, as it were, with their hand in the till as the nationalists took over the meeting and seized minutes of a previous meeting on 28 September.

Among the RUC members present were some of the most notorious RUC members in the area, including two members of Special Branch who had been involved in attempts to recruit local nationalists as informers.

In those minutes was a request, from a woman present, that the RUC carry out background checks on people volunteering for a new community transport scheme in the area.

Barry McElduff, who chaired Sunday's meeting, told An Phoblacht that ``not only were the people of the area angry at Fr Faul's involvement with the RUC but also angry that this `Forum' had the potential to cause major problems within our community''.

It could have led to ``civil war'', said one man from the floor.

In the days after the Silverbirch meeting had been stormed, rumours swept through Carrickmore, heightening tension, with speculation around who had attended the meetings with the RUC.

``The public meeting was intended to clear the air'', said McElduff. ``People had gone to Forum meetings under false pretences. The community was angry and we thought the meeting would clear up any confusion. At the end of the day, the real problem in the area is that the community doesn't want the RUC nor do they want their parish priest misrepresenting their views or being part of an RUC charm offensive''.

In all there were three meetings, in June, September and December, and some people attended one or other of the meetings but refused to go back when they realised the real purpose of the meeting. At the end of the public meeting, described by Barry McElduff as the real community forum, a six-person delegation was selected to meet with Archbishop Brady to seek the removal of Faul from the parish.

Other recommendations included a letter-writing campaign and a petition to be signed by the parishioners, also requesting his removal.
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An Phoblacht
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