Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Priest asked to step down after 1970s abuse claims

A Catholic priest serving in Ballymena has been asked to leave his post over child abuse claims dating back to the mid-1970s, it has emerged.

The accusations have been made against Father Paul Symonds, a curate in the parish of Kirkinriola and dates back to the 1970s when he worked in England.

Dr Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, told the parishioners in church yesterday that the diocese and Fr Symonds were cooperating fully with the police investigation.

He said: “Fr Symonds of course continues to enjoy the natural right of every person to the presumption of innocence.”

Dr Treanor said that the welfare of children was the “paramount concern for the diocese”.

He added: “In accordance with the Diocesan Policy of Safeguarding, all concerned are offered appropriate support. It would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this time in view of the ongoing police investigation.”

Fr Symonds, who was awarded an OBE for his “tireless community work”, could not be contacted last night.

Fr Symonds was the priest who led the service in December 2007 to mark the centenary of scouting in mid-Antrim that was attended by the Rev Ian Paisley, a long-time opponent of ecumenism. His attendance at the service horrified the hardline wing of his Free Presbyterian Church.

At the time Fr Paul Symonds said the event was non-denominational and “was not an ecumenical or Roman Catholic service”.

Mr Paisley said he had not consented to any such service and said arrangements “had been completely changed”.

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