Northern Ireland news

Bishop Brooks mosaic to be removed from Newry Cathedral 'within weeks'

A mosaic in Newry Cathedral dedicated to Bishop Francis Brooks. Picture by Mal McCann

A MOSAIC in Newry Cathedral in tribute to a bishop criticised for his handling of paedophile priest Malachy Finegan is to be removed 'within weeks'.

The ‘Coat of Arms’ mosaic to Bishop Francis Brooks is still on the floor of a side aisle in the cathedral - almost three months after the Catholic Church said it would be removed.

In September, Archbishop Eamon Martin said the mosaic would be replaced as part of ongoing work to the floor of the cathedral.

A contractor has been appointed to undertake the work.

It is understood a new design for the floor has been agreed but the mosaic has not yet been removed.

A mosaic dedicated to the late Bishop Francis Brooks is on the floor of a side aisle in Newry Cathedral. Picture by Mal McCann

A spokesman for the Diocese of Dromore said: “A contractor has been engaged for the specialist work involved in replacing the mosaic."

He said the “work is progressing as quickly as possible”.

He added that the diocese is hopeful that it will be replaced within weeks.

A solicitor for victims, Claire McKeegan of Phoenix Law, said survivors were distressed by the length of time it has taken to remove the tribute.

Bishop Francis Brooks died in September 2010

“Survivors asked for this mosaic to be removed in March 2018,” she said.

“It is now November 2019. Why was their request not acted on as a priority?”

Ms McKeegan said the “hugely elaborate and expensive” mosaic was offensive to survivors of Finegan.

“It is hugely hurtful that it has not been removed and displays a complete lack of empathy or remorse for what the victims have suffered,” she said.

“We have to question again why survivors have to repeatedly ask the church for very basic acts of compassion.”

At least 12 young boys were sexually abused by Finegan while he taught at St Colman’s College in Newry between 1967 and 1987. Many more were physically abused by the priest.

He went on to carry out further serious sexual abuse while he was parish priest in Hilltown in the early 1990s.

Bishop Brooks, who died in September 2010, sent Finegan to England for ‘treatment’ in 1994 instead of reporting him to police.

One of Finegan’s victims, who did not want to be named, said he told Bishop Brooks in 1985 that he had been abused by the notorious paedophile.

He said the bishop failed to notify the authorities or take any internal church action and instead offered him a trip to Lourdes to be “healed”.

In a letter in September, Archbishop Martin apologised “unreservedly for the hurt and damage caused to victims by Fr Finegan, or any other priest or church representative”.

“The Diocese of Dromore finds such behaviour towards children and vulnerable people abhorrent and indefensible, and is fully committed to achieving and maintaining best practice in the area of safeguarding young people and vulnerable adults,” he wrote.

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