Northern Ireland

Concerns raised that paedophile priest Malachy Finegan may have been an informer

Former priest Malachy Finnegan
Former priest Malachy Finnegan Former priest Malachy Finnegan

Concerns have been raised that alleged paedophile priest Malachy Finegan may have been an RUC informer.

Finegan has been accused of sexual abuse across Co Down, including at St Colman's College in Newry where he taught from 1967.

He also served was president of the school from 1976 to 1987.

The shocking revelations come just weeks after the Public Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute in eight cases following a police investigation linked to the activities of the former cleric.

Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, last night confirmed that he has asked secretary of state Julian Smith on behalf on one of Finegan’s alleged victims to establish an inquiry into the claims of abuse levelled against the priest and others.

Finegan’s long association with St Colman’s College brought him into contact with thousands of school children from republican backgrounds across Co Down and south Armagh.

Solicitor Kevin Winters
Solicitor Kevin Winters Solicitor Kevin Winters

Last night Mr Winters said “a central part” of the application to Mr Smith “is the allegation that Finegan was some form of ‘protected species’ when it came to criminal inquiry into his conduct”.

“For many years there was anecdotal evidence only that he was some sort of low-level informant supplying information to the police on young fellas who might have been suspected republicans,” he said.

“Many lads at St Colman’s college came from republican areas such as south Armagh.

“That would have formed the basis for some sort of engagement with the RUC about what he knew on certain individuals.”

The solicitor revealed that "mounting suspicion was crystallised" when he was informed by letter recently "that on the grounds of NCND (neither confirm nor deny) the PSNI would be unable to rebut the simple allegation that Finegan was an informant".

Mr Winters has raised concerns about the PSNI’s reliance on NCND saying the “policy is rolled out by the police when they want to protect the life of an alleged informant” and when there is a need to protect the lives of relatives if the person is dead.

“I think its extraordinary that the police have seen fit to hide behind this blanket policy given that Finegan is dead nearly 20 years and he has obviously no surviving relatives,” he said.

“Questions have to be asked why this approach has been taken here.”

The senior lawyer also raised the prospect that Finegan may have breached the confidential seal of confession - a sacrament of the Catholic Church.

“It also raises a very disturbing issue on the usurping of the sanctity of the confessional box - for many over and above the immediate victims this is just too horrendous to contemplate,” he said.

He added that “the continued absence of any explanations for the systemic cover up on Finnegan’s criminal activities the issuing of the NCND notice by the police may have inadvertently provided us with the answer.

“To that end it’s a case of the reasons staring us in the face all along.”

High profile figures who attended St Colman’s have in the past spoken of their own encounters with the alleged predator.

Mr Winters, who is also a former pupil at the school, has spoken about his own "unsettling" experience of the former priest.

The Dromore diocese has said the first allegation against the former priest surfaced in 1994, seven years after he left St Colman's College.

Finegan, who died in 2002, was also a parish priest of Clonduff in Hilltown in Co Down, where it is alleged he carried out further serious sexual abuse.