‘Bishop’ Pat Buckley
Buckley, who was ordained a Catholic priest in 1976 but excommunicated from the Church in 1998, was convicted last month in Belfast Crown Court of 14 crimes of being involved in sham marriages to allow men to claim EU Citizenship. The trial judge told Buckley: “You committed a series of serious crimes which you did for a financial reward.”
The Irish Catholic has now discovered that despite this conviction, Buckley is still licensed by the Government to carry out weddings in the Republic on behalf of the Irish State.
Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O’Dea has said that Buckley should be immediately removed by authorities from the recognised list of marriage solemnisers.
Mr O’Dea told The Irish Catholic that Social Protection Minister Joan Burton must “act immediately” to ban Buckley from performing State marriages and “reassure the public that procedures are in place to protect the integrity of the system and ensure that those entrusted by the State to officiate at a marriage are properly assessed”.
He said: “The idea that a person convicted of involvement in sham marriages could retain any officially sanctioned role in granting marriages risks making a mockery of the entire official process.”
The sham marriages were mainly between women from EU countries and Bangladeshi men seeking residency. Buckley pocketed between £300 and £350 each time while the men paid up to £20,000 each.
Registrar General Kieran Feely refused to comment on the issue when contacted by The Irish Catholic this week.
Despite his crimes, Buckley’s website still advertises him as authorised to conduct civil marriages on behalf of the State and claims he has performed some 2,700 such ceremonies.
Buckley was suspended as a Catholic priest in June 1998 by the then Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr Patrick Walsh, after he had failed to give an assurance that he would desist from malpractice in respect of the Sacrament of Marriage.
In the same month Buckley announced that he had been ‘ordained’ a bishop a month earlier by Co. Offaly-based Michael Cox, who also ‘ordained’ singer Sinéad O’Connor a priest in Lourdes in 1999. The Irish Bishops’ Conference rejected that, however, claiming there was no justification for considering as valid the ‘episcopal ordination’ received by Buckley. The Vatican later confirmed this judgment and Buckley’s automatic excommunication from the Church.