Northern Ireland news

Eighteen people have now come forward to report abuse by Co Down priest and school principal Fr Malachy Finegan

Fr Malachy Finegan, who died in 2002, was accused of sexual abuse but was never prosecuted
John Monaghan

EIGHTEEN people have now come forward to report abuse by Co Down priest and school principal Fr Malachy Finegan.

Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy revealed on Thursday that as a schoolboy he had been beaten with a stick by the paedophile priest, who also attempted to sexually groom him.

Fr Finegan, who died in 2002, was the parish priest of Clonduff in Hilltown and a teacher and later president at St Colman's College in Newry.

Last month, following the broadcast of a BBC Spotlight programme, a total of 12 people made allegations of abuse against Fr Finegan.

Claire McKeegan, a solicitor for KRW Law, which is representing victims, said that 18 people had now reported abuse by Fr Finegan and "more are coming forward every day".

"I have also received calls in recent weeks regarding different schools and dioceses in Northern Ireland so the case of Malachy Finegan is by no means isolated," she said.

The law firm said that Mr Murphy has provided a statement supporting the call of victims for a public inquiry into clerical abuse, an investigation by the Police Ombudsman into police failings in the Finegan case and a probe into the "criminality of members of the Church" who did not refer complaints of abuse.

Ms McKeegan said: "The survivors and victims' of clerical abuse welcome the support of Sinn Féin and again invite the other parties to commit publicly to their call for a public inquiry into clerical abuse."

The Belfast solicitor also said victims were hugely upset by news that Pope Francis will not be travelling north of the border during a planned visit to Ireland in August.

"They view this slight as the Catholic Church shying away from the scandals and growing anger and distress... The Pope and the Church hierarchy should be taking this opportunity to reach out to survivors," said Ms McKeegan.

Abuse survivor Sean Faloon said: "The Pope should come to Newry and meet with survivors and victims of clerical abuse and have a frank discussion on what can be done about it. We want an inquiry without further delay."

Meanwhile, the NSPCC has urged anyone affected by abuse or worried about a child to contact its 24 hour helpline on 0808 800 5000.

An NSPCC spokeswoman said: "Many people who have suffered abuse as a child do not reveal their ordeal at the time.

"Protecting children is everyone's responsibility and depends on people in positions of trust over them – as well as parents, carers and the public – recognising abuse and acting to prevent it."

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