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Second Newry school embroiled in clerical child abuse claims

A second Newry school has become embroiled in clerical child sex abuse claims, after an anonymous caller to a BBC radio show claimed he was abused by a priest while at St. Joseph’s Boys’ High School during the 1960s.

Speaking on Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan show on Friday last, the man recalled how Fr. Seamus Reid sexually abused him when visiting the school to hear Confessions.  

Another caller, and former pupil at St.Colman’s College, said he too was subjected to sexual abuse by Fr. Reid, also under the guise of hearing Confessions.  At the time, Fr. Reid was a regular visitor to St. Colman’s, where recent revelations have emerged of prolific sexual and physical abuse of students by former President Fr. Malachy Finegan.  

Also contacting the radio show, a 73-year-old man said he was sharing his story for the first time, claiming he was abused by Reid when he was an altar boy and while in the Boy Scouts, of which the paedophile priest was Chaplain.

The alleged sexual abuse of children by Reid – who died in 2001 – first became public in 2015 when well-known and now deceased Newry man, Gabby Curran, revealed how, as a student at St. Joseph’s, he had been abused by the priest.  At the same time, the Catholic Church confirmed it had received 11 complaints of sexual abuse against the priest since 1997. It’s understood the allegations against Reid were raised by Bishop John McAreavey during a report on the Diocese of Dromore carried out by the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children in 2011, although he was not publicly named.  Reid was never questioned by police regarding any of the allegations.

Speaking to radio show host Stephen Nolan, one of Reid’s victims claimed the priest used the guise of administering confessions to summon 11-year-old boys, one-by-one to storerooms in St. Joseph’s Boys’ High School, to carry out his horrific abuse.  During his graphic and highly emotional testimony, the man recounted how on several occasions he was literally physically sick during the abuse which, he said, would put an end to the horror. 

“I realised this was a way out so the odd time I exaggerated being sick, so it would stop,” he recalled.

Becoming emotionally upset, he said the abuse had blighted his childhood and destroyed his family life, and recalled how the priest used to visit his family home asking his parents’ permission to take him on bogus trips.  He recounted the many times, as an 11-year-old, he ran away from home, often sleeping outdoors in woods and bus shelters, to avoid being made to go with Reid, and was seen as “a troublemaker” by his family.

“He destroyed my family life… It wasn’t just my life, he destroyed my relationship with my father especially,” he said, and revealed he had received counselling over the years but has been left with a chronic pain condition as a result of his trauma.

While recounting his ordeal at the hands of Reid, the 73-year-old former Boy Scout continually broke down as he recalled the priest abusing him in the parochial house, and claimed Reid carried out his serial abuse against him and many more boys in his role as chaplain of the Boy Scouts.  The man also revealed that he confronted Reid in 2001 but the priest “turned and ran away”.  Revealing his lifelong torment for the very first time, the victim said he had never told anyone before because he was afraid he would not be believed.  

An undated statement currently on the Dromore Diocese website states: “In 1997 a person approached Social Services regarding abuse which he suffered as a child involving the late Fr Seamus Reid.  Social Services referred the person to the diocesan delegate in the diocese of Dromore.  Since then all other allegations which have been made against the late Fr Reid were reported to the statutory authorities in line with national child protection procedures.”

The statement confirmed that the Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore, who has offered his resignation, had met a number of victims of Fr Reid and urged “anyone who has been a victim of child sexual abuse by the late Fr Reid or any other priest of the Diocese to come forward”.

In a statement issued to the Nolan show, a spokesperson for St Joseph’s Boys’ High School said it “would not be appropriate for the school to make any public comment at this time”.

Meanwhile, the Board of Governors of St Colman’s College says it unreservedly condemned all abuse and advised any victims to contact the PSNI, stating: “The school will cooperate fully with any investigation regarding historic abuse by regulatory and statutory authorities.  Until such investigations are complete it would be inappropriate for the Board to make further comment.”