Belfast Telegraph

Parishioners rally behind priest who stepped down over claim of illicit kiss

By Emily Moulton

Two Catholic priests have voluntarily stepped down from their duties over allegations relating to child safeguarding.

Fr Eugene Boland told tearful parishioners in Killyclogher, Co Tyrone, on Sunday he was taking administrative leave.

The priest, who was in tears, told the shocked congregation he was facing a “personal crisis” but declined to give further details.

The allegation is believed to concern a woman who is alleging the priest kissed her when she was a 15-year-old.

In a statement, Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty said a priest “requested and been granted administrative leave while an issue of safeguarding is being processed”.

The bishop said the safety and welfare of children was and would continue to be of paramount concern to the diocese.

“It would be inappropriate to comment any further. While this process is ongoing, the priest is entitled to the benefit of a presumption of innocence,” he said.

The priest (63), a native of Moville, Co Donegal was ordained in St Pius X Church there in 1973.

He previously worked as administrator in Galliagh and served in Creggan and the Waterside parishes in Derry.

He is chaplain to two hospitals in Omagh and the Community Hospital in Carndonagh, Co Donegal.

He has been in Killyclogher since January 2004 and led the drive for the restoration of St Mary's Church which reopened in March last year.

Last night, parishioners were rallying to his support. One local woman, Mary, was even moved to tears by the whole ordeal.

She explained she had known Fr Boland for many years and was devastated by the accusations.

“I was married in the church 41 years ago. Fr Boland, he held a special mass at my house for my 40th wedding anniversary,” she said.

“No, I don’t believe what has been said, I would find it very hard to believe. I think he is a wonderful priest. He is held in such high regard. He reaches out to everybody.

“He is warm and kind and there is no malice about him. He is very generous and very popular. He even reaches out to other faiths.”

The mood was very much the same around the local Spar and pub in Killyclogher.

Those aware of the allegations remained tight-lipped while those that did not expressed a combination of shock and disbelief.

One young man, who did not want to be named, said he also did not believe the allegations.

He described the local priest as a “very genuine man” heavily involved in the community.

“No I don’t believe it,” he said. “I would know Fr Boland through another family and I have heard he is very upset by all of this. It’s shocking really and I would be very disappointed if it were true but I don’t believe it is.”

And a priest in Co Louth, part of the Archdiocese of Armagh, has stood down after a complaint relating to child safeguarding.

Bishop Gerard Clifford told the congregation on Sunday the priest agreed to voluntarily step down during an investigation.

In a statement it said the allegation had been reported to the civil authorities, and the diocese and the priest would fully cooperate with any investigation.

“Whilst this process is ongoing the priest is entitled to the benefit of a presumption of innocence,” the statement added.

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