The life of St. Patrick and the Ireland that he brought the Gospel to were brought to life at a public event, held in the Killyhevlin Hotel, supported by local churches and Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge.

The speakers were the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, Right Revd John McDowell and Bishop Joseph Duffy, retired Roman Catholic Bishop of Clogher.

The event, ‘St. Patrick – an inspiration for all?’ was organised by the Church of Ireland, Clogher Diocese, the Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church locally and County Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge and was the latest in a series of public events designed to promote helpful discussion on important issues.

Introducing the evening, Mr. Stuart Brooker, past County Grand Master of Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge, explained how they had previously examined the Decade of Centenaries, the Ulster Covenant, Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising.

About this latest event, he said; “Although we share differences, we all have a part to play in Northern Ireland.”

Chairing the evening was Revd Earl Storey, said they were tying to make history talk.

The first speaker, Bishop McDowell, told the audience that only two documents survive (neither of them in the original) which historians can say without hesitation were written by Patrick.

“Neither of them is very long and in fact one of them is short letter; The Confession and the Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus,” he explained.

He described it as a paradox that most people in history would know the basic facts of someone’s life, such as the date and place of birth and when they died, possibly where they were educated or who the most important people were in their lives.

But for such people they often knew next to nothing about their inner life, how they felt about other people or how they reacted to suffering.

“With Patrick it’s the exact opposite. We don’t know with any certainty when or where he was born or educated.

“But we do know lots about his inner life because he wrote it down in the explanation and justification for his life which he called his Confession.

“You might say we know a lot about what would nowadays be called Patrick’s “spirituality”; how he related to God. And it is very personal because Patrick had very clear and definite ideas about what God’s plan was for the world and where he (Patrick) fitted into it.”

At the talk Bishop Duffy, regarded as a noted authority on Patrick examined the Ireland that he visited.

He explained how his interest in Patrick began when visiting Lough Derg and where before he became Bishop, he was chaplain to the pilgrims at St. Patrick’s Purgatory there for 10 years.

He said his interest in Patrick took him to many places to speak including, he recalled, addressing clergy at Portora Royal School in the 1970’s

“It’s the appreciation that Patrick was not just a Roman Catholic product, that he belonged to everyone, that he reached across the divide.

“Patrick to me was a very real person,” he said.

Describing the people to whom he came across in Ireland, Bishop Duffy said they spoke a Celtic language but were either described as Hibernicas or Scot Gaels, the latter who spoke the Gaelic of today.

He said there would have been about 500,000 people living on the island then in a tribal society where groups of families were together and had a king and did not live in towns and villages but in isolated areas.

The event was supported by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as the Centre for Studies in Irish Protestantism (Maynooth University).