Northern Ireland news

Co Down GAA club urged any victims of paedophile priest Malachy Finnegan to come forward

Parents at four Co Down primary schools say they do not want Bishop of Dromore, Dr John McAreavey to officiate at their children's confirmation. Picture by Pacemaker

A CO Down GAA club has urged any victims of abuse by paedophile priest Malachy Finnegan to come forward.

Clonduff GAC in Hilltown said anyone affected by the actions of Finnegan, a former president of the club, should "bring this to the attention of the PSNI".

It comes as it was revealed that parents at four Co Down primary schools have said they do not want the Bishop of Dromore, Dr John McAreavey to officiate at their children's confirmation after he said Requiem Mass for Finnegan.

Bishop McAreavey admitted earlier this month that he had made an "error" by officiating at Finnegan's funeral in 2002. He described the former teacher's actions as "abhorrent, inexcusable and indefensible".

The cleric's comments came after it was revealed that the Diocese of Dromore had settled a claim for sex abuse by Finnegan, who was accused of abusing pupils at St Colman's College in Newry.

The diocese said it was aware of 12 allegations against the former teacher, who worked at the school from 1967 to 1976. Finnegan was never prosecuted.

The first allegation against him came to light in 1994, with the then Fr McAreavey providing pastoral support to the victim.

Since the revelation, it has now emerged that parents at four schools have expressed their reluctance to have Dr McAreavey involved in the confirmation ceremony of their children.

Dr McAreavey was due to oversee proceedings at St Patrick's Primary School in Hilltown, St Patrick's Primary School in Mayobridge and Carrick Primary School, Burren.

But it has been reported that Dr McAreavey met with parents from St Patrick's, Hilltown last week amid the controversy of his actions.

It is understood that he was asked during the meeting in Newry if he would be resign following his decision to speak at Finnegan's funeral. It is believed that the bishop will make a decision about his role in the confirmations in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Clonduff GAC has also urged those affected by Finnegan's actions to contact police.

In a statement on its website, it said it has been "made aware" that "our club members (past and present) or family and friends of club members may have been abused" by Finnegan.

"Clonduff GAA Club advises anyone who has been a victim of Malachy Finnegan's abuse to bring this to the attention of the PSNI," it said.

"Clonduff GAA Club places the highest importance on all aspects of child protection, care, safeguarding and welfare of our members.

"If anyone is concerned over the physical, sexual or emotional abuse of any of our club members please contact our club's child protection officer."

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