Higgins calls for safe return of Irish Columban priest kidnapped in the Phillipines

The Labour party president Deputy Michael D Higgins has called for the safe release of an Irish priest recently kidnapped in the Mindanao area of the Philippines.

Speaking in the Dáil the Labour TD said the kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott, who worked abroad in a “distinguished way” for nearly five decades, is something which affects us all.

“Father Sinnott’s Columban community has expressed its concern but I wanted us, as a parliament, to join with the Columbans in saying we wish to convey to the Filipino community and the breakaway group in Mindanao that we are affected.

“Indeed, everybody in Ireland is affected by the kidnapping of Father Sinnott, a man aged 80, who has debilitating medical needs. His community has appealed to those who may be holding him to deal immediately with the authorities and negotiate so that his medical needs can be met.”

He said this was a difficult time for the priest’s family and companions in the Columban order.

“I know a number of people in that order. They are distinguished for being people who have entered problematic areas, be they Peru or the Philippines. What is interesting is that Fr Sinnott is one of those who sought to transcend the cultural, ethnic and religious differences, being as he was part of the inter-faith dialogue.

“In addition, some among the Islamic community have issued statements to the effect that they are appalled by his kidnapping in so far as he had assisted some of the weakest people. In 1998, he founded a school for children with intellectual disabilities. He is regularly photographed among the community and enjoyed the support and love of people from different religious beliefs.”

Deputy Higgins stated he raised the matter to send a strong message abroad and at home. “One message is to the Columban community and Fr Sinnott’s family to the effect that we are in solidarity with them. The other message is to those who are encountering Fr Sinnott’s work abroad.

“Anything visited upon him is visited upon everyone in Ireland. For this reason our parliament wants to send a message that we want him released and to have immediate access to the medical support that he requires.”

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