Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Criticism at diocese’s response to paedophile priest victims’ complaints

A solicitor representing victims of paedophile priest Malachy Finegan has criticized how the Diocese of Dromore is handling their concerns over a mosaic in Newry Cathedral, claiming the protracted delay is exacerbating their “distress and upset”.

Claire McKeegan of Phoenix Law is representing a number of men who were sexually and physically abused by Finegan while he taught at St. Colman’s College in Newry and latterly when he served as parish priest in Hilltown.   The paedophile cleric sexually abused at least 12 young boys over a 20-year period between 1967 and 1987 while teaching at the school before continuing the abuse in Hilltown in the early 1990s.

Having been informed of the abuse carried out by Finegan, the then Bishop of Dromore, Francis Brooks, sent him to England for “treatment” in 1994 instead of reporting him to the authorities.

A tribute ‘Coat of Arms’ mosaic dedicated to Bishop Brooks – who died in September 2010 – is displayed in Newry Cathedral and Finegan’s victims have called for its removal.

Having written to the diocese on behalf of her clients in March of last year, calling for the mosaic to be removed, Ms McKeegan says there has been “no substantive response” and revealed she has now written to Archbishop Eamon Martin, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the issue.

Outlining the reasons for writing to Archbishop Martin, Ms McKeegan said: “There has been no satisfactory response whatsoever in over a year and our clients are growing in their distress and upset.”

Revealing that she had been told the matter “was the subject of meetings” more than two weeks ago but yet no response has been forthcoming, she said, “Our clients were hopeful that matters would be dealt with quickly and under the direction and guidance of the Archbishop”, adding that it “could have been easily resolved and yet the silence from the Church has been utterly unacceptable and disappointing given the grave context of the situation”.

A spokesperson for the Dromore diocese said Archbishop Martin is “reviewing this matter and had given directions to take the review forward”.

Meanwhile, there will be no prosecutions in eight files of a police investigation linked to the activities of Malachy Finegan during his time at St. Colman’ College, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has declared.

Police said they “carried out a thorough and robust investigation into the circumstances of abuse committed by deceased priest Fr Malachy Finegan and other persons connected to St. Colman’s College, Newry and subsequently submitted nine files to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for consideration”.

It is understood the ninth file is still being considered.