Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Public enquiry into Finegan abuse thwarted by Stormont collapse

A public enquiry into a campaign of child sex abuse waged against pupils of St. Colman’s College in Newry by their teacher and former President of the school, Fr. Malachy Finegan, will not take place while the Stormont Executive remains suspended, The Examiner has learned.

The paedophile priest, who died in 2002, was accused of systematically physically and sexually abusing young boys throughout his time at the school, spanning 20 years from 1967 to 1987.

Revelations of the extent of Finegan’s crimes came to light in February of this year when a number of his victims spoke out about the harrowing treatment they incurred while attending St. Colman’s and later when the cleric administered in the parish of Clonduff.  It emerged Finegan was moved from St. Colman’s to serve in the rural parish near Hilltown, despite the Diocese of Dromore being aware of allegations of child sex abuse against him, which first came to light in 1994.  The scandal led to the resignation of the Bishop of Dromore Dr. John McAreavey, who admitted to having knowledge of the allegations against Finegan but, despite this, officiated at his funeral.

In March the PSNI launched an investigation into the circumstances of the abuse allegations and, while recognising Finegan could no long be held accountable in a court, it is hoped lessons could be learned from how the authorities dealt with the case.

However, some of his victims have called for a dedicated public enquiry into the scandal and subsequently, Newry Mourne and Down District Council approved a notice of motion demanding the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) initiate a full and independent public enquiry into the clerical abuse.  A response received from Secretary of State Karen Bradley, which is to be presented at a Council meeting tomorrow (Tuesday), has revealed that no such enquiry can take place until the institutions at Stormont are restored.

The correspondence states that Ms Bradley welcomes the establishment of an interdepartmental working group, sponsored by the Executive Office and NI Department of Health, to look into clerical child abuse and mother and baby homes but, it adds that “any question of a public enquiry would be for a devolved administration to consider”.

“It is exactly in order to consider strategic decisions of this kind that it is imperative to see the Executive restored, which remains our overriding priority,” the letter read.

The news will come as a further blow to the scores of young boys who suffered at the hands of Malachy Finegan, and other members of the clergy, while the church hierarchy knowingly and actively concealed the activity, thus preventing any potential prosecution.