By Cian Molloy in Dublin
AN IRISH priest is defying Canon Law and his bishop by standing as a candidate in the European elections.
Fr Liam Sharkey, 58, is standing for a seat in Connaught-Ulster, in spite of Canon Law 285, which states that "clerics are forbidden to assume public office whenever it means sharing in the exercise of civil power".
A local bishop may give dispensation from the prohibition under Canon 87, but no such dispensation has been given.
A statement, issued by a spokesman for Bishop Christopher Jones of Elphin, said: "Fr Sharley neither has, nor could in any circumstances be granted, permission to pursue an office contrary to the Canon Law of the Church." Bishop Jones would not comment further on the matter. Fr Sharkey said that he believes he is exempt from the prohibition because the European Parliament "is a talking shop with no real decision-making power".
The rebel curate says he decided to stand because of the effect European policies were having on people in the West. "I am standing partly because of the way the EU is putting a lot of my people out of business," he said.
"Grants for the West have been approved, but local people have no say in how the money is spent — they are not invited to those meetings.
"There isn't a level playing field for people without skills. I am standing as a voice for these people."
Even if he doesn't get elected, Fr Sharkey believes the campaign will have been worthwhile. "If I never win the election, at least I will have an opportunity to put my point of view and to raise the concerns of the people I represent."