Northern Ireland

'Four priests interviewed by police' in Fr Malachy Finegan investigation

Fr Malachy Finegan, who died in 2002
Fr Malachy Finegan, who died in 2002

FOUR priests have been interviewed by police in relation to the investigation into the abuse of boys by Fr Malachy Finegan, a solicitor representing victims has said.

A team of officers have been investigating the circumstances of abuse committed by the late Co Down priest and any other people connected to St Colman's College in Newry where he worked.

Finegan, who died in 2002, was a parish priest of Clonduff in Hilltown as well as a teacher and later president of the leading grammar school.

He has been accused of sexual and physical abuse against boys on church and school premises. He was never questioned by police or prosecuted.

In March, Dr John McAreavey stood down as Bishop of Dromore after it emerged he celebrated Mass alongside Finegan despite knowing he was a paedophile.

The PSNI are also investigating if children were abused by any other person at St Colman's while Finegan worked there between 1967 and 1987, as well as when authorities first became aware of his offending and what action was taken to ensure adequate safeguarding.

Human rights solicitor Claire McKeegan, who represents victims of Finegan, last night said she has been told that four priests have been interviewed and released as part of the investigation.

She said it is imperative that police "conduct a robust investigation and get to the truth of what occurred and, importantly, who knew what".

"Many have alleged that there were individuals in positions of power who failed in their duty to report an offence at the earliest opportunity.

"Survivors and victims must see these individuals feel the full weight of the law as many could have been spared horrific abuses."

St Colman's College in Newry where Fr Malachy Finegan worked between 1967 and 1987
St Colman's College in Newry where Fr Malachy Finegan worked between 1967 and 1987

A PSNI spokesperson said only that its Public Protection Branch "continue to investigate circumstances of abuse committed by deceased priest Fr Malachy Finegan and other persons connected to St Colman's College, Newry".

"To date, more than 30 people have contacted police in relation to the investigation and a significant number of statements have been recorded.

"A number of people have also been interviewed in respect of other offences and further interviews are planned.

"As the investigation continues police would continue to appeal to anyone affected by abuse to contact the Public Protection Branch on 101."

The news came as Pope Francis, who will visit Ireland this weekend, wrote an unprecedented letter to all Catholics worldwide promising that no effort would be spared to prevent abuse and its cover-up.