The colleague of a senior priest facing abuse allegations has spoken out in defence of his “good friend”.
Fr Patrick Mulholland, the parish priest in Ballygalget and Portaferry, said he was “very shocked” to learn of the allegations made against Fr John McManus, who is “wholeheartedly” denying the claims being made.
Yesterday Fr Mulholland described Fr McManus as a “good friend” he has known since his student days.
“Today I have been interacting with people who are very shocked, very saddened, very broken by this news,” he said.
“I have had people in tears with me telling me they don't believe a word of it. They have known only good from Fr McManus.”
Fr McManus, a former media spokesperson for the Catholic Church, was once in charge of the seminary based at St Malachy's College in Belfast and he was also principal of Ballygalget Primary School.
He released a statement on Wednesday evening saying while
the police inquiry was being conducted he would take leave from his duties as a priest and as chancellor of the diocese of Down and Connor.
A statement from the Bishop of Down and Connor, Bishop Noel Treanor, confirmed the allegations surrounding the safeguarding of children were first received nearly seven weeks ago, on January 27.
Fr McManus said: “The police have been investigating these allegations and I have co-operated fully with their inquiry, at all times denying these allegations.”