CONTROVERSIAL priest Fr Pat Buckley has passed away after a short illness, it has been announced.

From Tullamore in Co Offaly, he was ordained a priest in 1976 and was best known as a curate at St Peter’s Cathedral in West Belfast in the early 1980s, where the vocal cleric clashed with Bishop Cahal Daly on social issues and was later moved by the Bishop to Kilkeel, Co Down, in 1983.

Today his Larne-based ministry posted online: "Oratory Society regrets to inform you that Bishop Pat Buckley died peacefully this morning after a short illness. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace, Amen."

When Fr Pat Buckley was suspended from the priesthood, the Andersonstown News published this editorial on October 26 1985.

It's quite possible that Cahal Daly's reign as Bishop of Down and Connor will be remembered in years to come for nothing more edifying than the Fr. Pat Buckley affair, because this confrontation between the curate and the bishop is developing into one of those incidents which reaches the history books.

It's quite evident that Fr. Buckley was sacked, and no amount of double-talk from the Catholic Church's public relations office in Dublin can change that fact. It's also evident that he was sacked because, as the Yanks would put it "He was shooting his mouth off", and in the Catholic Church as in all powerful institutions in this world, no one shoots his mouth off in public except the chief.

To be fair to the bishop, we don't think that it was Fr. Buckley's attacks on the bishop himself which led to his being sacked, but the fact that he bracketed his fellow priests as being something less than courageous in tackling the many problems faced by the Catholic population in the Six Counties today. It is understandable that the bishop would have to take some action to defend the integrity of the priests of the diocese if he thought they were being maligned. But to sack the culprit and say that he was being removed from his job because his term of office was up, was not only ridiculous but it verged on the dishonest and we expect more than that from a spiritual body like the Catholic Church.

Fr. Buckley rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, and maybe he shot his mouth off a bit too often. But much of what he said made sense and his genuine concern demanded that he receive a Christian hearing and a civilised response instead of a crack of the crosier.