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Northern Ireland news

Former west Belfast priest suspended following sexual assault allegation

Fr Hugh Kennedy was administrator of St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast until earlier this year 

A FORMER administrator of St Peter's Cathedral in Belfast has been interviewed by police over an alleged sexual assault.

It is understood the allegation against Father Hugh Kennedy is historical in nature and does not involve a child.

The 59-year-old cleric has been been suspended from ministry while the matter is investigated.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Down and Connor said it had been informed that the PSNI had "initiated an investigation into an alleged incident of an historical adult nature involving a priest".

"Bishop Noel Treanor has suspended the cleric’s ministry pending a full and complete investigation.

"As with every person in such circumstances the cleric’s innocence is presumed until the contrary is proven and he retains the right to his good name.

"The diocese cannot provide any further information whilst the investigation is ongoing."

Earlier this year, Fr Kennedy left St Peter's in west Belfast to take up a university chaplaincy role in London.

He previously stepped aside in 2011 following allegations about his conduct which were passed to police and social services.

A PSNI investigation was carried out but no file was ever sent to the Public Prosecution Service.

Fr Kennedy returned to the ministry in 2013 following an internal church investigation.

As well as St Peter's, Fr Kennedy has served in Belfast parishes including St Bernadette's, Sacred Heart and St Paul's, as well as in Counties Antrim and Down.

Responding to a query about the latest allegations, PSNI Detective Inspector Zoe McKee said: “Police investigating a report of a sexual assault allegation have interviewed a male on 7th November 2016. Enquiries into this matter are ongoing."

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