Northern Ireland

Full extent of abuse allegedly carried out by Fr Malachy Finegan to come under judicial scrutiny for first time

The late Fr Malachy Finegan
The late Fr Malachy Finegan

THE full extent of abuse allegedly carried out by a paedophile priest is set to come under judicial scrutiny for the first time.

Proceedings issued by a man who claims the late Fr Malachy Finegan molested him for years at a Co Down school have been listed for High Court trial later this month.

He is suing the trustees and board of governors at St Colman's College in Newry and the Diocese of Dromore over the campaign of sexual and physical assaults during the 1970s.

Now aged in his sixties, the plaintiff is seeking damages for alleged negligence and failures to protect him from Finegan.

Other witnesses are also expected to give evidence about the priest's activities during his time at the school.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, who represents the man taking the action, said: "We are very pleased that nearly 20 years after the death of Malachy Finegan there will now for the first time be a legal case looking at what happened here."

The priest taught and worked at St Colman's College from 1967 to 1987, spending the last decade as the school's president.

He went on to serve as a parish priest in Clonduff, Co Down.

Finegan, who died in 2002, was accused of a long campaign of child sexual abuse, but never prosecuted or questioned by police about claims made against him.

In 2018 it emerged that the Diocese of Dromore had settled a claim made by one of his alleged victims.

At that stage the board of governors at St Colman's condemned the physical, sexual and emotional abuse inflicted by Finegan while working there.

The priest's image was also removed from the school's photographs.

At the time the PSNI set up a team of detectives to investigate Finegan's activities.

Nine people were said to have been interviewed under caution, but no direction was made to prosecute anyone.

With a Police Ombudsman inquiry into earlier alleged RUC failings also closed, no findings have been made of any institutional connivance within the church.

The plaintiff in the latest case claims he was beaten and abused on dates between 1970 and 1977.

According to his case, distressing flashbacks and nightmares about what Finegan subjected him to resulted in a post-traumatic stress disorder.

He also suffered from suicidal thoughts and at one point deliberately took an overdose of medication.

With the trial now set to get underway on June 21, Mr Winters added: "I commend the perseverance of our client in his pursuit of justice, as indeed all victims and survivors of abuse perpetrated by Finegan."