Northern Ireland

Call for public inquiry into clerical sex abuse

Fr Malachy Finnegan was accused of sex abuse by 12 people
Fr Malachy Finnegan was accused of sex abuse by 12 people Fr Malachy Finnegan was accused of sex abuse by 12 people

Amnesty International has called for a public inquiry into clerical sex abuse in Northern Ireland.

It follows revelations of abuse by Fr Malachy Finnegan, former president of St Colman's College in Newry.

Fr Finnegan, who died in 2002, was accused of sex abuse by 12 people.

Amnesty's Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said: "To date, clerical abuse victims here have been let down, not just by the church, but also by the authorities."

Victims claim that police in Newry were alerted to the Finnegan allegations in 1996 but failed to interview the priest.

The police have said a formal complaint was never made, but they did receive a report of historical abuse, according to Amnesty.

Mr Corrigan added: "The Fr Finnegan abuse scandal is horrifying but is not an isolated case.

"Rather, it is yet another example of how paedophile priests appear to have been facilitated by the church authorities in continuing their vile abuse.

"It is just the latest example of how the church authorities prioritised the protection of reputation over the protection of children.

"The police and state authorities also have serious questions to answer, in this and in other cases, with regards to their apparent failure to adequately investigate very serious allegations and intervene to bring the alleged abuse to an end."

Solicitor Claire McKeegan, of KRW Law, who represents a number of Fr Finnegan's alleged victims, said she had received calls from numerous further witnesses since a settlement by one of her clients was made public recently.

She added: "The message is clear: victims demand a public inquiry into clerical abuse in Northern Ireland without any further delay.

"The victims and survivors deserve to speak about the horrific abuse that took place and be heard in a public forum tasked with sufficient powers to get to the truth.

"This case has brought to the surface yet another paedophile priest who was never investigated or exposed by the church or the police."