Northern Ireland news

Concerns raised over diocese's handling of allegation against Canon Francis Brown

It was announced last weekend that an allegation had been made against Canon Francis Brown

CONCERNS have been raised over how the Catholic diocese of Dromore has handled an allegation made against the administrator of Newry Cathedral.

It was revealed last weekend that Canon Francis Brown had stepped aside from public ministry while the allegation against him was investigated.

However, it was claimed today that the priest remained in ministry in the diocese for six weeks after being made aware of the accusation.

The Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster reported Canon Brown was told about the allegation by a member of the public at the beginning of March 2018 and again a number of weeks later.

It was reported he refused to make his diocese aware of the allegation and said it was not his responsibility to refer himself to Church authorities.

However, diocesan guidelines state when someone makes a complaint they should be provided with contact details of the designated liaison person as the disclosing person may wish to ask questions later.

While the nature of the allegation had been previously unclear, the Nolan Show claimed it had spoken to the alleged victim who said it was a "sexual abuse allegation" and relates to a period when the priest was in St Colman's College, Newry.

In a statemen the Dromore diocese said it was aware of the "suggestions and comments" made on the radio show.

"The diocese also wishes to clarify that Canon Brown was advised of an allegation and agreed to step aside from all ministry within the diocese and associated bodies," it said.

"While he may currently be named on some school websites as a member of the safeguarding team he has voluntarily stepped aside from all ministry and such publications are under revision.

"This status will remain while the police investigation is ongoing."

It was also reported the priest continues to be listed as a contact for safeguarding issues for schools in the parish.

But a CCMS spokesman said Canon Brown had "stepped aside from his roles as a school governor in St Clare’s Abbey Primary School, Newry and St Joseph’s High School, Newry" pending the outcome of the police investigation.

"Arrangements are being made to replace him and all school literature is being updated to reflect the new governance structures at both schools."

A solicitor for Canon Brown said he "categorically asserts that he has never at any time behaved inappropriately to any child or adult".

"Police have not asked to meet with Canon Brown and, if they do make such a request, he will co-operate fully with them in any investigation which they undertake," they added.

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