Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Suspicion that Finegan was police informant 

The PSNI has been asked to confirm if alleged paedophile priest Malachy Finegan was a police informer, a solicitor has confirmed.

Conleth Downey, representing Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey, revealed his client raised the issue in November last year.

In a statement released on Wednesday last, Mr Downey claims that while rumours had been “circulating” beforehand, Bishop McAreavey “had not been aware of this issue” before he resigned on March 1st 2018.

The revelation comes just weeks after lawyer Kevin Winters, who represents some of Finegan’s victims, raised similar fears and highlighted the prospect that the alleged paedophile priest may have breached the confidential seal of Confession.

Finegan, who died in 2002, has been accused of a catalogue of sexual abuse, including at St Colman’s College, Newry where he taught from 1967 and served as president from 1976 to 1987.  His long association with the school brought him into contact with thousands of pupils, some from republican backgrounds.

Amid the suggestions that Finegan may have been providing information to the RUC, it has now emerged that Dr McAreavey himself raised similar concerns that Finegan may have been a police informer.

Mr Downey’s statement on behalf of the former bishop read: “Following the widespread national media publications raising concerns that Malachy Finegan may have been a police informant, I can confirm that this exact concern was specifically raised by the former Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey on the 16 November 2018 with police officers who were investigating the allegations of abuse perpetrated by Malachy Finegan.

Paedophile priest Malachy Finegan.

“This concern was circulating around the time of Bishop McAreavey’s resignation on the 1 March 2018.  Bishop McAreavey confirms that he had not been aware of this issue prior to that.

“On behalf of our client we have written to the chief constable of the PSNI requesting that he confirm or deny the simple allegation that Malachy Finegan was a police informant.  We have yet to receive a response. Concealment heightens concerns.”

Last month, Kevin Winters said he had asked secretary of state Julian Smith to establish an inquiry into abuse claims made against Finegan.

Mr Winters told The Irish News that “a central part” of the application to Mr Smith “is the allegation that Finegan was some form of ‘protected species’ when it came to criminal inquiry into his conduct”.

“For many years there was anecdotal evidence only that he was some sort of low-level informant supplying information to the police on young fellas who might have been suspected republicans,” Mr Winters said.

He revealed that “mounting suspicion was crystallised” when he was informed by letter “that on the grounds of NCND (neither confirm nor deny) the PSNI would be unable to rebut the simple allegation that Finegan was an informant”.

The PSNI were asked if the former bishop raised the issue of Finegan being an informer, if he had written to the chief constable and to comment on the issue themselves.

But a police spokesperson said: “We would neither confirm nor deny and no inference should be drawn from this”.