Tributes to Portadown priest Fr Michael Bingham - ‘a calming voice when tensions were high’

Described as a gentle man who was a pillar of strength to the people of Drumcree, Fr Michael Bingham SJ died yesterday in hospital.

Rev Fr Michael Bingham SJ PT05-097.

Fr Bingham, who was originally from Liverpool, had been working in the Portadown area for around 20 years.

In a statement last night, the Drumcree Centre said: “It is with deep regret and sadness that the Management, Staff, Volunteers and Service Users of Drumcree Community Trust have learned of the death of Fr Michael Bingham this morning.

“As many of you have already known, Fr Michael had been hospitalised due to severe illness on Thursday of last week.

“Michael has been involved with our organisation for over twenty years, as a member, a volunteer and a director. Although he stepped down as our chairperson several months ago, Michael resolved to remain active within our management committee.

“His passing will be deeply felt by his family in England, by his fellow members of the Jesuit community both Ireland and Britain and by the many families and individuals with whom he worked and assisted throughout our community and beyond.”

St. John the Baptist’s College said: “The SJBC family are very saddened to hear of the passing of Fr Michael Bingham. Fr Michael was a compassionate, caring and very charitable man in attitudes and deeds. A great friend and role model to the local community and parish. Sacred heart of Jesus have mercy on his soul. May he rest in peace.”

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said Fr Bingham would be missed by his parishioners and all those at the Dumcree Community Trust where he was involved for over two decades.

Upper Bann MLA Mrs Kelly said: “I was saddened to hear of the death of Fr Michael Bingham and I know his loss will be keenly felt throughout our community. My thoughts go out to his family and friends following their sad loss, I’m sure he will be missed by everyone who knew him.

“Originally from Liverpool, he was soon adopted as a local after moving to Portadown. When tensions arose in this area Fr Bingham was known to be a calming voice. He also worked hard to foster good cross-community relations and he himself enjoyed a strong relationship with the other church denominations in the area.

“He was widely recognised for his work with the Drumcree Community Trust, where he served for over 20 years, including as chairperson, where he worked to make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people in this area. Fr Bingham was also known for his work at Maghaberry Prison. He has made a huge contribution to this area over the past few decades and leaves behind a lasting legacy.”

A Drumcree Centre spokesperson said: ”On Sunday 16th January, his remains will arrive at Drumcree Community Centre, Ashgrove Road, Portadown, where they will repose from 1.00pm until 9.00pm. Friends, neighbours and members of the community will be welcome to pay their respects to Fr. Michael during those times.

A spokesperson said: “Drumcree Community Centre will also open on Monday 17th January from 10.00am until 1.00pm for those persons wishing to pay their respects to Fr. Michael after which the Community Centre will be closed to the public.

“This closure is to facilitate a period of private and quiet reflection for Fr Michael’s family members who will be travelling from England and for his religious friends and colleagues.

“We would ask that all those wishing to attend Drumcree Community Centre strictly abide by guidelines relating to Covid-19.

“In particular, it is important that all persons attending the Community Centre use the hand-sanitiser located at the main entrance; wear face-coverings, and maintain adequate social-distancing. Entrance to, and exit from, Drumcree Community Centre will be by separate doors.

“To facilitate members of Fr Michael’s immediate family travelling from England and a number of his colleagues also travelling from several parts of Ireland and Britain, Requiem Mass will take place on Monday 17th January in the Church of St. John The Baptist, Drumcree, at 3.00pm with burial immediately afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.

“Please note that the Jesuit residence at “Iona House” in Churchill Park will be private and Requiem Mass will be restricted to 130 people due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Fr. Michael’s Requiem Mass will be broadcast via Drumcree Parish online livestream.”