Northern Ireland, a nation famous for its religious strife, has added a new wrinkle to the ever changing face of holiness, a pagan priest and church will now be recognised for the first time.

The Order of the Golden River, established in 2009 and headed by Patrick Cranberry, was accepted as an official church by the Northern Irish General Registry Office at the end of last month.

Mr Cranberry, who goes by the title Sovereign and Founder, and now gets to that distinguished title Northern Ireland’s first recognised Pagan priest. Cranberry said he had originally applied for official recognition only in order to legally marry people of his faith.

He has changed his tune however and now proudly states to The Independent, “We can now do hand passings, which is our official belief, rather than having to have a ceremony outside as we’d prefer and then another in the local registry office,”

Mr Cranberry however wants to continue to move his faith forward, “We are starting with a workshop on May 9th. We are setting up in Derry in response to demand. We have been asked by people in Derry that have been coming up to us in Belfast for our workshops if we would consider setting up a branch in Derry. People have told us that they would love to be part of something in the area so we are responding to that demand. There is already a pagan community in Derry.”

Mr Cranberry, who is based in Glenmormley and but he has said he travels extensively for his beliefs, asked the Stormont parliament for permission to be a certified holy man five months ago.

He has also gone on record as being “absolutely over the moon” about the result, adding, “I’m still in shock, we were not expecting to be recognised.” An odd sentiment from a man who has every right to believe he and his church would have been certified.

He would go on to state that although his religion has been in existence for quite some time, he and his followers previously operated underground for fear of prejudice. The religious troubles that have plagued Ireland can certainly have led to driving other faiths underground but in a modern would, and in a modern Ireland, different beliefs are to be expected.

Mr Cranberry, although his religion did not require a building, as “generally we can use ancient stone circles and are involved closely with nature,” he has been offered the use of a building in Londonderry by a sympathetic supporter.

Since becoming an officially recognised religion, he said that the support had been overwhelming, admitting that he had jokingly queried: “what have I let myself in for?”