By Eugene McGloin
THE MANY rows between bishops and their priests in Sligo seldom leak into the media.
Fewer still make it between the covers of a local history book.
But 100 years ago a legendary 'spat' played out in Sligo between the local bishop and priest.
of it became public, much of it did not and for the younger 21st
century generation it's sometime a shrug of the shoulders and 'so what?'
book titled ''From Cliffoney to Crosna,' with a black and white photo
of the priest, is something casual book browsers could pass by.
They would be wrong; it is the first hand account from his own (limited) papers of Sligo legend, Fr Michael O'Flanagan.
The book's prologue on the inside cover is a typed letter in 2010 from another Elphin bishop, John Clancy.
Bishop Clancy richly praises Fr O'Flanagan.....for his speaking engagements in the United States on behalf of the Gaelic League.
But it is the 'spat' with another Elphin bishop, Bernard Coyne, that has survived. Those be sparks that never quite quenched.
has taken a long time -- a century indeed -- for this story to
emerge,'' notes this local history, now again in stock at Liber book
is, of course, only one side of the 'spat;' doubtless the Elphin
Diocese has archives which would be a treasure trove if they were ever
Canon Doorly is an eyewitness to several of the testy exchanges between priest and bishop.
You'd love to have been a fly on the wall back then; Canon Doorly's notes would still be interesting.
we do get in this book is an account of the bishop refusing to shake
hand with his priest here in Sligo town, even leaving the room after
Bishop Coyne writes to forbid Fr O'Flanagan speak in public without his
express permission, in writing. The full letter is here.
There are many reasons for the series of exchanges between the two:-
*** The famed row over the bog in Cliffoney reveals origins of the respect and the value in which locals held their curate;
it is hard not to see that all the concurrent nuances around
conscription itself was the 'big ticket' issue which fanned the flames
between priest and bishop.
or fiction, views also persist that the British Authorities wanted Fr
O'Flanagan off the scene because of his high-profile promotion of
Some higher-ups in the Irish Hierarchy might have had roles, too; the 'Castle Catholic.'
the Bishop of Elphin could never have foreseen, though, that sending Fr
O'Flanagan to Roscommon would help change the tide of Ireland's
This coming weekend marks the 100th anniversary of Count Plunkett's bye election win for Sinn Fein in North Roscommon.
It was the beginning of the end for British rule in the South of Ireland, within 12 months Sinn Fein swept Westminster seats all over Ireland.
Fr O'Flanagan had an instrumental role in choosing Count Plunkett as candidate for February 1917.
The (Papal) Count won against all odds; the curate's role was vital in ensuring voter turnout in bad winter weather.
lesser material has been made into good films. There are strong threads
of a script 'n' a half here in this new local history.
who withheld the key for use of the church after the transfer of their
curate even suggests a (serious budget) documentary should be
Seventy five years elapsed before Church authorities consented, relented, to permit the name of Fr O'Flanagan be remembered at his chapel in Cliffoney.
The research, typeface and layout are top class, moreso for a book costing a mere fiver.