Glasgow & West Scotland

Canon Tom White describes attack during Orange walk

Canon Tom White Image copyright Archdiocese of Glasgow
Image caption Canon Tom White claims he was subjected to "vile abuse" as he spoke to parishioners following mass.

A priest who was spat upon and subjected to sectarian abuse during an Orange walk has described his ordeal.

Canon Tom White says he was spat on twice while he spoke to parishioners outside St Alphonsus Church in Glasgow on Saturday afternoon.

He told BBC Radio Scotland that he was called "Fenian scum", a "beast" and "paedophile" during the incident.

Police are investigating the incident but the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland said its members were not responsible.

A police spokesman said that while the parade was passing at the time, involvement by someone from the Orange march was still to be established.

The force said they were reviewing CCTV footage and appealing for mobile phone footage of the "contemptible" incident.

The parade passed the church on London Road in the Barras area of Glasgow at about 17:15 shortly after Canon White finished conducting mass.

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme it was customary for marchers to stop playing music as they passed places of worship.

The music was replaced by "unpleasant chants which talk about being up to your knees in Fenian blood", he added.

The priest said he was unable to get back into the church but he was "fairly confident" the parade would pass "without too much trauma".

Image copyright Google
Image caption St Alphonsus Church is close to the Barras market in the east end

However, when a number of police officers who were accompanying the parade were called away, Canon White said he was left exposed.

"They were called to another incident in Kent Street and it left myself and the parishioners vulnerable to an escalating incident which at that point I was enduring verbal assaults - Fenian scum, and worse, I was being called a beast and a paedophile," he said.

In an earlier statement on Facebook, the Archdiocese of Glasgow described the "vile abuse" Canon White went on to suffer.

It claimed: "The priest was spat upon. Spittle landed on the back of his head.

"He wiped it away. Another mouthful of thick spittle was spat into his eye socket. Again he wiped it away leaving his hand full of the vile liquid.

"He was then further insulted and lunged at by a man carrying a pole before police arrived to restore some kind of order."

The Church said: "What kind of society is it that allows ministers of religion and churchgoers to be intimidated and attacked by a group which has a long history of fomenting fear and anxiety on city streets?"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Orange march through Glasgow is an annual event

A spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland said: "We have been made aware of an incident outside of St Alphonsus Church in Glasgow late on Saturday afternoon whilst an Orange parade was passing by.

"We understand that abusive comments were directed at a local priest from a group of young men who were not part of the parade. We can confirm that no members of the parade were involved in this or any of the reported incidents.

"The Orange Order is founded on the principle of religious liberty and respect for people of all faiths.

"We totally condemn the bigoted actions of those involved and hope that they are dealt with to the full extent of the law. We would welcome the opportunity to work with Police Scotland to identify those responsible."

Police Scotland appealed for help from members of the parade who may have information or video footage of the attack.

They said there was nothing to indicate involvement of any marchers but that was one line inquiry they were investigating.

Supt John McBride said: "We will not tolerate any form of hate crime and behaving in such a way is contemptible.

"I would like to assure everyone that those who choose to react in a sectarian or religiously motivated matter will be identified and dealt with under the law. I'm deeply shocked that some people think this is an acceptable way to act - it isn't. "

Image copyright PA

He added: "The public can be assured we remain committed to ridding our country of hate crime and the bigots within it who think they won't be held to account for their actions. I can tell you they will.

"From our inquiries carried out so far, we are aware of several people commenting online regarding this incident and I would urge anyone with any footage or information about this particular incident to contact us as the footage could aid our inquiries.

"I am also appealing to those who were taking part in the Orange Parade, who may have seen the incident as they were walking past, to contact us and pass on any information. Any small detail could prove vital to identifying whoever is responsible."

Meanwhile Glasgow City Council, which manages public processions in the city, said council officers would meet this week to discuss "ongoing issues" relating to parades.

A spokeswoman said: "We utterly condemn this appalling behaviour and urge anyone with any information on the incident to contact the police."

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