Northern Ireland news

Mass-goers asked about future of parochial house where priest Malachy Finegan abused kids

The parochial house in Hilltown and Malachy Finegan, who died in 2002 

PARISHIONERS in Co Down have been asked for their views on the "future use" of a parochial house where paedophile priest Malachy Finegan allegedly carried out some of his abuse.

In a statement in the Clonduff parish newsletter, Mass-goers were encouraged to put forward their opinions on Hilltown parochial house.

A consultation has been ongoing in the parish about the future of the building, which has been unoccupied since last year in the wake of the allegations surrounding Finegan.

The former teacher and president of St Colman's College in Newry, who died in 2002, was parish priest for Clonduff in Hilltown in the 1990s.

Read More: Former Bishop John McAreavey backs calls for public inquiry into alleged child abuse by Fr Malachy Finegan

He has been accused of sexually and physically abusing numerous children over several decades on church and school premises.

He was never prosecuted despite some of his victims having reported the abuse in the late 1990s.

One of his victims, Sean Faloon, said he was abused by Finegan as an altar boy from the age of 10 in the bedroom of the parochial house.

He described how he was abused over the course of eight years, starting in 1989.

Last February, parish priest Fr Charles Byrne told parishioners during Mass that he would no longer be staying at the parochial house.

The decision was made after some community members said they would refuse to attend the parochial house or recognise it as a community hub after learning that children were abused in the building.

Fr Byrne told the congregation at the time: "It has been arranged that I will stay in the parochial house in Warrenpoint for the time being until something is sorted out here in the parish."

In recent weeks, the parish has been seeking the views of the congregation.

In a statement in the parish bulletin last Sunday, it said: "We would encourage everyone to complete and return the survey sent out last week so that a decision can be made in the coming weeks regarding the future use of parochial house and the future residence of our parish priest Fr Charles Byrne."

Reports in yesterday's Newry Democrat suggested the building could be developed into a parish centre for groups and committees to hold meetings.

The existing curate's residence could also changed into a residence for the parish priest.

In a statement last night, the Diocese of Dromore said it was "aware that the parish of Clonduff is currently conducting a consultation within the parish regarding a future residence for the parish priest.

"The diocese awaits the outcome of this local consultation and will consider it in accordance with diocesan procedures."

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