Mary McAleese repeats calls for inquiry after revealing youngest brother was abused by paedophile priest

Mary McAleese said she had only recently found out her youngest brother suffered abuse by Fr Malachy Finnegan. Picture by Julien Behal/PA
Mary McAleese said she had only recently found out her youngest brother suffered abuse by Fr Malachy Finnegan. Picture by Julien Behal/PA

VICTIMS of Malachy Finegan have welcomed support from former president Mary McAleese in calls for a public inquiry into clerical abuse after she revealed her youngest brother was abused by the paedophile priest.

Mrs McAleese said she had only recently found out her brother, Clement Lenaghan (49), suffered abuse by Fr Finegan when he was a student at St Colman's College in Newry.

She described how her "baby brother was seriously, physically and sadistically abused by Malachy Finegan".

Fr Finegan taught at the school from 1967 to 1976 and was later president. He died in 2002. He is accused of a catalogue of physical and emotional abuse on pupils.

Mrs McAleese said her elderly mother had only recently learned of the abuse faced by her younger brother after he wrote a letter published in the Belfast Telegraph, in which he condemned Fr Finegan as a "sadist".

"Thankfully, I never experienced sexual abuse there - and I feel intense sadness for those who did - but I was one of many who suffered other forms of abuse, which Finegan knew about and allowed to flourish," said Mr Leneghan.

"He had a duty to protect, but chose instead to indulge his destructive, criminal urges.

"He presided over a culture of bullying, violence, intimidation and secrecy. These experiences shape young lives and have complex, damaging echoes long into adulthood for many. I know I'm not alone in this.

"It's such a shame that Finegan isn't around to face justice and his many victims.

"Can he have been able to get away with this for so long without other adults in the school, or the diocese, turning a blind eye, or actively protecting him?"

Mrs McAleese yesterday choked back tears as she talked about the impact on her family.

"My wonderful, beautiful and as you can imagine the youngest of the family so incredibly loved by all of us, to think that he suffered and never felt that he could tell anyone," she told RTÉ.

"Opportunities to take action were missed", she said.

Mrs McAleese added: "There are huge questions to be answered by all the people who were involved at a senior level in that school and in the diocese about what they knew and when they knew it.

"It shouts for an inquiry really and I think an independent inquiry is warranted."

Solicitor Claire McKeegan welcomed Mrs McAleese's support for an inquiry.

"The victims and survivors today repeat their call for a public inquiry into clerical abuse in Northern Ireland and welcome the statement of former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese in support," she said.

"We again ask that the Secretary of State for NI and local politicians make a public commitment to support the victims in their call for an investigation without any delay and extend the same invitation to Archbishop Eamon Martin."

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty said "sadly, the Fr Finegan abuse scandal is not an isolated case".

"It is the latest example of how paedophile priests appear to have been facilitated by the Catholic Church authorities in continuing their criminal behaviour," he said.

"The Irish government established three separate inquiries into clerical child abuse. In Northern Ireland, there has been no similar inquiry and it now falls to the Secretary of State to put that right."