Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Calls for public inquiry into clerical abuse in the north

Amnesty International has called on the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley to establish a public inquiry into the scale and circumstances of clerical child abuse in the north, maintaining that the Fr. Finnegan abuse scandal is the latest in a litany of such cases. 

Amnesty says reviews by the Catholic Church’s own safeguarding body have revealed that more than 100 priests in Northern Ireland are alleged to have been responsible for child abuse since the mid-1970s.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, described the Fr Finnegan abuse case as “horrifying” but said it is “yet another example of how paedophile priests appear to have been facilitated by the church authorities in continuing their vile abuse.”  Mr Corrigan said the police and state authorities “also have serious questions to answer, in this and in other cases, with regards to their apparent failure to adequately investigate very serious allegations and intervene to bring the alleged abuse to an end.”  

Solicitor Claire McKeegan of KRW Law, who represents a number of Fr Finnegan’s victims, said they were demanding a public inquiry into clerical abuse “without any further delay.”

“This case has brought to the surface yet another paedophile priest who was never investigated or exposed by the church or the police,” she said.

Meanwhile, local Sinn Fein MPs Mickey Brady and Chris Hazzard have advised those who suffered abuse at the hands of the cleric to request that the Police Ombudsman’s Office carry out an investigation into the failures of police inquiries into the serial abuser.

Mr Hazzard described Finnegan’s catalogue of abuse as “reprehensible acts which have left the entire community in shock” before advising “victims of this awful abuse to go to the Police Ombudsman to ask his office to investigate failings in the police inquiries into the activities of this serial abuser.”

“The Catholic Church has a responsibility to provide any and all information it possesses on the activities of Malachy Finnegan to both the police and Police Ombudsman’s inquiries. This information must include details of the Church’s response when it first became aware of the activities of Malachy Finnegan.  The PSNI has a responsibility to investigate claims that this abuse was covered up, enabling Malachy Finnegan to continue to abuse children,” said Mr Hazzard.

Party colleague, Mr Brady said “it is vitally important that anyone coming forward with new information on this vile abuse is supported by the relevant statutory bodies both in justice and those tasked with dealing with the deep hurt and trauma caused by this abuser.”