In the Irish LGBT history documentary Did Anyone Notice Us? (2003), there is an extended clip at 1hr 8mins from a RTE Prime Time debate on homosexuality. It was broadcast on 29th April 1993 just two months before the passing of the decriminalisation Bill.
In a heated war of words, two angry, young Dublin men speak fervently against “buggery” and “sodomy” in Ireland.
They were Maurice Colgan, a founding member of Youth Defence, and Peter Scully, who became spokesperson for the group a month after they were founded.
Both have been in one way or another active in reactionary politics in Ireland for the last twenty-five years.
They have rallied against homosexuality, divorce, abortion and the teaching of “godless” sex education in secondary schools.
Today, Maurice Colgan is a Dominican priest based in Cork City who still regularly attends anti-abortion protests.
Peter Scully, certainly up until a couple of years ago, was a leading campaigner within the Catholic right. There is no online trace of him since 2013.
In February 1992, the militant anti-abortion group Youth Defence was founded in Dublin by several young people in the wake of the X case.
Early members included:
– Niamh Nic Mhathúna (now Uí Bhriain)
– Una Nic Mhathúna (now Una Ui Scolai) and future husband Peter Scully
– Fionnuala Nic Mhathúna (now Ni Dhomhnaill) and future husband Sean O’Domhnaill
– Maurice Colgan
– Peter Murphy
Scully was listed as a “spokesperson” of the group in The Irish Times (27 April 1992) and later as “public relations officer” in the same newspaper (13 October 1992).
As mentioned at the start of the piece, Youth Defence activists Peter Scully and Maurice Colgan were guests on Prime Time on 29th April 1993. The topic was homosexuality.
Maurice Colgan (Youth Defence) told the audience:
The man over there is wrong when he states that hetrosexual people are allowed to commit any acts they wish to commit. In the law, it is not an anti-homosexual law. It’s a law against buggery and indecency … If a man and a woman want to commit buggery that is against the law at the moment. Or if a man and woman want to commit oral sex, it is against the law at the moment .. That’s what we’re against, that’s what these people are trying to bring in.
Peter Scully (Youth Defence) questioned:
What we’d like to know is what exactly Máire Geoghegan-Quinn is legalising? Is she legalising buggery? Is she legalising bestiality? Is she legalising sodomy? Is she legalising gross indecent acts between male consenting people? Is that what she’s legalising? Is that what she wants the people of Ireland for their children? Crazy.
Kieran Rose (Gay rights activist) :
I’ve listened to these kind of words a lot. One part of me gets very angry. Because that man is talking about me and people who I hold very dear and I get very angry about that. But I also feel very sad for that man.
Peter Scully :
I feel very sad for you! Having to do what you do.
Kieran Rose :
What is it, which is eating him up that he feels like attacking me. I have no desire to attack him. I have no interest in his sexual life. I hope he has a great sexual life but I’m not interested.
Peter Scully :
I want my children to grow up in a proper environment. Free from buggery and sodomy.
These vocal and deep-rooted homophobic views amongst leading Youth Defence members was common in this early period.
In 1994, Scully left Youth Defence to become “executive officer” of the new Irish branch of the American-based Catholic anti-abortion organisation Human Life International.
After Youth Defence picketed the constituency office of Health Minister Brendan Howlin, Maurice Colgan was listed as the spokesperson for the group in the Irish Press (10 November 1994)
During the bitter divorce referendum of 1995, Scully was a “spokesperson” (The Irish Times, 14 September 1995) and “campaign manager” (The Irish Times, 27 October 1995) for the No Divorce Campaign.
Other leading lights of this group included Dr. Gerard Casey of the Christian Solidarity Party and Niamh Nic Mhathúna of Youth Defence. Scully was responsible for coming up with the wording for the infamous ‘Hello Divorce, Goodbye Daddy’ posters.
The campaign to remove the constitutional prohibition of divorce narrowly won the referendum.
It was observed in the Irish Independent newspaper (17 June 1995) that Scully was engaged to marry Una Nic Mhathuna, the eldest daughter of the Mathuna family.
Colgan and Scully were pictured together on a Youth Defence delegation to Rome in October 1995:
In November 1996, Scully broke with the Human Life International “claiming its work in Ireland was being interfered with by Americans”. HLI sought an injunction against Scully seeking access to their former offices and their property. In the event, an out-of-court settlement was reached with Scully receiving an undisclosed sum from HLI.
Scully then went onto co-found the group Family and Life, which was set up by the disgruntled Irish directors of Human Life International, and is still active to this day.
Maurice Colgan was quoted in the newspapers in 1996 and 1997 regarding complaints from Youth Defence that their Christian songs were not getting radio airplay. In The Irish Times (21 November 1997), he was described as the “national organiser” of the group.
In May 1997, Scully led a campaign against the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme in schools. The Irish Times (14 May 1997) revealed that a significant number of schools had received anti-RSE material. These included Vatican documents on sexuality, a booklet and a taped speech by Dr Gerard Casey, with a covering letter signed by Peter Scully. Dr Casey wrote that the RSE programme is part of the “cultural war between the Christian and secularist views of human development.”.
In November 1997, a 13-year-old girl was made pregnant by a brutal rape and was taken into care by the Eastern Health Board. The parents of the girl said they wanted their daughter to have an abortion. But their minds changed and anti-abortion activists Peter Scully and Úna Bean Mhic Mhathúna accompanied the girl’s parents to court. Their appearance in the case came at the same time that the Father told the court he did not believe an abortion was the right decision for his daughter.
On 16th May 1998, Youth Defence picketed the Adelaide hospital after it made a submission to the government on abortion.
According to The Irish Times (8 April 1999), the picket turned aggressive and a “mini-riot” developed with Youth Defence activists kicking and punching Gardai. Eight leading members of YD were convicted and fined for obstructing Gardai and assault. They included Maurice Colgan (25), Justin Barrett (28), future far-right activist and No to Nice campaigner, and Michael Quinn (35), who later went onto found the neo-Nazi ‘Democratic Right Movement’.
Two years later, the court allowed appeals by Quinn and two others on charges of obstructing Gardai but dismissed appeals by Barrett, Colgan and another. It also dismissed Quinn’s appeal against breaching the Public Order Act.
In March 1999, members of Youth Defence with the support of a large group of Americans “forcibly occupied a Dublin family planning clinic and filmed, threatened and intimidated staff and customers”.
Ms. Justine Macken, as reported in The Irish Times (9 March 1999), granted an injunction for the Irish Family Planning Association on Cathal Brugha Street against Maurice Colgan and Niamh Nic Mhathúna of Youth Defence and Rev. Patrick Mahony of the the US-based Christian Defence Coalition.
In March 2000, Scully led a controversial anti-abortion campaign that targeted politicians with personal posters. Family and Life erected large posters near the homes of nearly all of all the politicians who sit on on the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution. Calling on a new referendum on the status of abortion in Ireland, each poster was personalised and mentioned the name of the politician. In the Irish Examiner (16 March 2000), Scully defended the campaign claiming that was completely above board and democratic.
In July 2002, Family and Life began a campaign to halt certain sex education in programmes in irish Schools which he described as “smutty” and “godless” in The Irish Times (10 July 2002). He was quoted in The Sunday Independent (14 July 2002) as saying
Family experts throughout the world know that when the abortion promoters move into a school with their propaganda, they corrupt innocent young people, contributing to an increase in promiscuity, venereal disease, out-of-wedlock pregnancy and abortion The godless sex educators’ agenda is evil. It’s rotten. It must be opposed.
The group were seeking to raise €36,075 to fund the creation and distribution of its information pack, “Education for Life”, to 763 secondary schools.
During the second Nice referendum in 2002, Colgan spoke with his old-friend Justin Barrett at a public meeting for the right-wing No campaign in the Ardboyne Hotel, Meath.
Barrett became the centre of a controversy after it was revealed he had spoken at conferences of the neo-Fascist NPD party in Bavaria, Germany in May 2000 and the extreme-right Forza Nuova party in Civitanova, Italy in July 2001.
In the April 2003 edition Solas (Youth Defence magazine), Colgan was pictured with veteran American anti-abortion Joe Scheidler:
In the October 2003 edition Solas (Youth Defence magazine), Colgan was pictured with Scott Schittl , Niamh Uí Bhriain (formerly Nic Mhathúna) and Javier Silvestre:
In 2004, Colgan was pictured with conservative and Independent pro-life politician Kathy Sinnott on the election campaign trail in Fethard, County Tipperary.
In 2009, Peter Scully’s uncle Fr. Anthony Scully was widely critised for a leaflet he signed that said a “vote for the Lisbon Treaty is a vote for the culture of death”. It also said :
If Europe recognised homosexual couples as equal to marriage, for example, it would go against its own history. And it would be right to stand against it.
In September 2011, Maurice Colgan was ordained as a Dominican brother by Dr. Diarmuid Martin (Archbishop of Dublin) at the Church of Saint Saviour, Dominic Street.
Youth Defence’s magazine Solas (December 2011) reported:
One of the great blessings we’ve had this year will also help us to prepare for the year ahead. Br Maurice Colgan, a founding member of Youth Defence, and an extraordinary pro-life activist, was ordained a priest … It was a hugely uplifting celebration for the many pro-life volunteers who have drawn inspiration and courage from Fr Maurice’s tremendous leadership throughout the years.
Fr Maurice, commenting on how his pro-life work with Youth Defence helped him discern a vocation, said: “Working with Youth Defence gave me the opportunity to meet young people with an integrated faith – a relationship with God that was just a normal part of their lives – and a group that has a deep sense of justice. This combination of faith and action tends to nurture in one a desire to know God’s will”.
We are further blessed that Fr Maurice will be Chaplain to all our pro-life endeavours in the Life House. We have much cause to count our blessings!
Maurice Colgan was pictured on thejournal.ie on a Youth Defence open top bus at one of their rallies July 2011.
Maurice Colgan was pictured with neo-Nazi and former Youth Defence buddy Michael Quinn in about 2011. This came a full year after Michael Quinn announced the launch of his racist extreme-right group ‘Democratic Right Movement’.
In February 2013, ‘Family and Life’ published a photograph of Fr. Maurice Colgan with Youth Defence stewards at their Vigil for Life:
He was listed in the run up as the official chaplain for the ‘Rally for Life’ 2013.
According to The Irish Times (20 April 2013), Peter Scully on behalf of ‘Family and Life’ hosted an intimate anti-abortion dinner in the private members club St. Stephen’s Green Club attended by 10 political guests. They included the-then Fine Gael Senator Paul Bradford, who is married to Lucinda Creighton, and the-then Fine Gael TD Terence Flanagan. Both Bradford and Flanagan joined Renua Ireland but failed to win seats in the 2016 General Election.
In 2014, Colgan released a CD entitled ‘Hymns of Passion and Resurrection‘ telling the “story of Easter using old and new Irish hymns”. Artists on the compilation included Youth Defence founding member Niamh Uí Bhriain (formerly Niamh Nic Mhathúna), her sister Ide Nic Mhatúna and her brother Lorcán Mac Mhatúna.
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