'Leaving Belfast was like the end of a love affair' - Holy Cross priest
By Andrew Phelan
Saturday October 10 2009
FR Aidan Troy, the priest caught in the middle of a loyalist protest at Belfast's Holy Cross School, has said leaving the Ardoyne was like the end of a love affair.
The cleric, who came to international prominence during the demonstrations eight years ago, has compared his move from the community to a bereavement. Despite getting death threats during the fraught three-month protest, Fr Troy has told how difficult it was for him to say goodbye.
In a frank radio documentary to be broadcast on RTE this weekend, he speaks of the "emptiness" he felt after his transfer last year to an affluent Paris suburb.
Fr Troy took up his new office at Saint Joseph's Church on leafy Avenue Hoche, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, in September 2008.
This followed a seven-year term in Belfast, where his ministry in Ardoyne had spanned both the Holy Cross protest walks in 2001 and the blight of suicides beginning in 2003.
After Belfast, Kaye Morley's documentary on RTE Radio 1 on Saturday, gives an indepth account of Father Troy's life.
Of the Holy Cross protest walk, he says: "Once I was asked by the parents on the first morning, 'Will you walk with us? You might be our insurance to save the lives of our children.' Once I walked one step on that road I was entirely committed to being the last step off that road.
"I still see the faces of the children going to school. I will never forget the looks of absolute terror ... When you went up the road you'd never know on two consecutive mornings what you were going to find."
Fr Troy describes being abused and spat at every day.
"There were posters saying 'Fr Troy is a paedophile'. There were the most horrendous pornographic pictures held out to the children ... There was constant intimidation in the way of conversation, screaming, shouting, placards."
Although he found his work tough in Belfast, he freely admits that he would not have chosen to move to Paris. Leaving Belfast was like a bereavement for him, he said, because it involved not just leaving people, but also a type of immediacy of social engagement which he had discovered there.
"It was like falling in love and then being told that the affair is over and it was that sort of feeling -- I don't want it to be over. I think I fell in love with engagement at a human level," he says.
Fr. Aidan Troy is many things to many people. Most A.O.H. members would know him as the recipient of the Order’s most prestigious award, the 2004 John F. Kennedy Memorial Medal. I was privileged to get to know Fr. Troy on a more personal level through my involvement as National Chairman of the Holy Cross/Ardoyne Trust, one of the most successful fundraising activities ever undertaken by the A.O.H. To me, Fr. Aidan was and is a very dear friend, a cherished Hibernian Brother, and an exemplary priest whom all other priests should use as a role model. My life was made richer for having known him. May God Bless Fr. Aidan wherever in this world his ministry happens to be.
Jack Meehan, Past National President - Ancient Order of Hibernians in America