Seán Cloney and his daughters Eileen and Hazel talk about the boycott and the lasting impact it had on their family and the wider community.

The boycott in Fethard-on-Sea, County Wexford arose in 1957 when the local Catholic curate, Father William Stafford put pressure on Seán Cloney a Catholic, and his wife Sheila, a Protestant, to send their daughters to the Catholic school. Events led Sheila to move with her daughters to Edinburgh before relocating to the Orkneys. 

Father Stafford organised a boycott of local Protestant businesses. The boycott ended in August 1957 when the Catholic priest bought a packet of cigarettes in one of the Protestant owned shops. While life returned to normal in Fethard, the boycott had a lasting impact on the Cloney family. 

Seán and Sheila Cloney educated their children Eileen and Mary at home. The family worked from morning till night on their farm on the Hook peninsula in Wexford.

Eileen Cloney Kehoe recalls that she and her sister Mary spent their childhood at home, helping on the farm, with just animals for company. Her sister Hazel Cloney Morrissey was born after the 1957 events. She attended the local Catholic school from the age of seven, but did not participate in religion classes.

To this day Sheila Cloney will not talk about the boycott and neither will her sisters.

It’s an unhappy episode, it destroyed her father, they don’t want to talk about it.

Eileen Cloney Kehoe feels the need to speak about the effect the boycott had on her growing up, but understands her mother’s wish for privacy. Hazel Cloney Morrissey tries to remain impartial but has a lot of empathises with her mother.

The Church of Ireland Rector of Fethard-on-Sea Reverend Paul Mooney says present day Fethard-on-Sea is an integrated, happy, contented community.

It’s often difficult for me to imagine what did happen here.

This episode of ‘Would You Believe’ was broadcast on 7 September 1999. The producer is Julian Vignoles.