Ombudsman to investigate claims that police failed to properly investigate allegations about Fr Malachy Finegan

Sean Faloon said he was abused by Fr Malachy Finegan from the age of 10. Picture from BBC
Sean Faloon said he was abused by Fr Malachy Finegan from the age of 10. Picture from BBC

THE Ombudsman is to investigate claims that police failed to properly deal with a complaint of sex abuse against Co Down priest Fr Malachy Finegan more than 20 years ago.

The police watchdog has agreed to look into alleged failings by the then RUC to investigate abuse allegations made by former altar boy Sean Faloon in 1996 against the paedophile priest.

The Hilltown man, who waived his right to anonymity, was a 10-year-old altar boy when he was first abused.

Finegan, who died in 2002, was a parish priest of Clonduff in Hilltown, Co Down, as well as a teacher and later president at St Colman’s College.

The paedophile priest, who died in 2002, also abused boys at St Colman's College in Newry where he worked for 20 years from 1967, and later became president.

The first of a dozen abuse allegations was reported to the Diocese of Dromore in 1994.

Mr Faloon was abused for the first time in 1989. The grooming and abuse went on for almost eight years and only came to light when, at the age of 17, he told his GP. The Hilltown man's family and police were later informed.

The PSNI have also set up a dedicated team to investigate the circumstances of the child abuse carried out by Finegan.

Claire McKeegan, a partner at KRW Law, represents a number of Fr Finegan's victims.

She said a submission was forwarded to the Police Ombudsman on behalf of 30 known victims and survivors of the serial child abuser.

She said she had received "confirmation that the ombudsman's office will be conducting an investigation into the failings of the then RUC regarding the initial complaint in 1996 which was not followed up".

"It is difficult for victims to understand how repeated offences against children occurred in an educational and institutional context, particularly these offences which are of the highest gravity, where there was complaints made as to abuse, but there seems to have been no adequate investigation addressing the abuse", Ms McKeegan said.

"Clearly given the role that Finegan played throughout his time at St Colman's, including as principal of the school, allegations of this nature should have been investigated promptly and thoroughly.

"Systemic clerical abuse of this nature over a long period of time has yet to be the subject of a public inquiry in Northern Ireland and nor have victims and survivors had any form of redress that offers the possibility of closure and resolution or care they they so greatly need", she added.