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Winter Olympic boss reveals Fr Malachy Finnegan physical abuse

Dominic McAleenan
Connla Young

The leader of the Irish Winter Olympics team has spoken about his experience at the hands of a Co Down based priest later exposed as a child abuser.

Co Down native Dominic McAleenan revealed that he was physically abused by former priest Fr Malachy Finnegan.

Fr Finnegan taught in St Colman's College in Newry from 1967 to 1976 and was president there from 1976 to 1987.

He died in 2002.

Bishop of Dromore Dr John McAreavey has apologised and said his decision to say Fr Finnegan’s funeral Mass then was "wrong".

It emerged last week St Colman’s has ‘airbrushed’ the priest's image from around 10 photographs which have since been put back on display.

The decision was taken after the board of governors were told that the Diocese of Dromore had reached a settlement with one of 12 abuse victims.

Fr Finnegan was never prosecuted for sexual abuse, but allegations were investigated in 2011 by the Catholic Church's clerical abuse watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

Mr McAleenan, who now lives in Sweden, is currently in South Korea with Team Ireland at the Winter Olympics.

He has used Facebook to reveal how the former priest beat him viciously with a cane, hugged him during the sign of peace during Mass and asked questions about “impure thoughts”.

The incidents all happened while he attended St Colman’s College before switching schools.

He explained that on one occasion as a punishment for ringing a school bell the priest “slapped me across the face so my ear was ringing, dragged me into his office.

“He had a cupboard with double doors, he opened it and it was like something out of a sadomasochist horror story.

“He had canes and straps and well anyway.”

Mr McAleen says he was then struck by the cane wielding priest.

“(The) first strike hit my thumb followed by another five and I can tell you they were brutal full force whacks and he looked f***ing possessed”.

The 48-year-old said he was left with a sprained thumb and that after the cane attack the priest said “’let us offer each other the sign of peace’, he hugged me and my hands are still under my arms”.

An apology from Dr McAreavey was read out at all Masses in the diocese at the weekend.

“As bishop, I am conscious of the need for many victims of abuse to receive acknowledgement, an apology, counselling and indeed compensation,” he said.

"With the assistance the diocesan director of safeguarding and other advisers I do my best to meet their needs."

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