Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Diocese of Dromore clarifies police bail reports

The Diocese of Dromore has moved to clarify reports that four priests interviewed by police in relation to the investigation into paedophile priest Malachy Finegan were released on police bail. 

In a statement issued in response to an Irish News article on the current investigation into abuse by the late cleric, the Diocese confirmed that priests “engaged voluntarily with the PSNI to give interviews”, but insisted that their release did not involve police bail.

“The Diocese of Dromore and its clergy have been and will continue to cooperate fully with the ongoing PSNI investigation into the late Fr Finegan,” it added.

A PSNI team are investigating the circumstances of abuse committed by the former President of St Colman’s College in Newry and any other people connected to the leading grammar school.

Finegan, who was a parish priest of Clonduff in Hilltown as well as a teacher and later president at St. Colman’s, has been accused of sexual and physical abuse against boys on church and school premises. He was never questioned by police or prosecuted before his death in 2002.

In March this year, Dr John McAreavey resigned as Bishop of Dromore after it emerged he co-celebrated Mass with Finegan despite knowing he was a paedophile.

The PSNI probe is also investigating if children were abused by any other individual at St Colman’s while Finegan worked there between 1967 and 1987, and it will ascertain when authorities first became aware of the cleric’s offences and what action was taken to ensure adequate safeguarding.

In its statement, the diocese also said it “advises anyone who may have a concern of a safeguarding nature to contact the PSNI, Social Services, or the Diocesan Designated Safeguarding Officer.”

A PSNI spokesperson said they “continue to investigate circumstances of abuse committed by deceased priest Fr Malachy Finegan and other persons connected to St Colman’s College, Newry”.

“To date, more than 30 people have contacted police in relation to the investigation and a significant number of statements have been recorded.

“A number of people have also been interviewed in respect of other offences and further interviews are planned.

“As the investigation continues police would continue to appeal to anyone affected by abuse to contact the Public Protection Branch on 101.”