Priest back in ministry following abuse probe
A Catholic priest who had been at the centre of abuse allegations dating back to the 1970s has been restored to his full ministry.
Father Sean Cahill from the dioceses of Down and Connor had always denied wrongdoing and voluntarily stepped aside in February 2010 while the PSNI investigated allegations against him.
In August 2011, the PSNI confirmed no prosecution has been directed against Fr Cahill, who had been working in Castlewellan, Co Down when he stood down.
At Mass yesterday Bishop Noel Treanor told the congregation at St Malachy's Church in Castlewellan he was "delighted" to welcome Fr Cahill back to his priestly ministry, "with an unblemished character".
Bishop Treanor praised him for serving the people of the Castlewellan and Kilmegan parish for almost 50 years.
In a statement to parishioners, Bishop Treanor said: "After thorough and lengthy investigation by the police and the Public Prosecution Service, an investigation with which Fr Sean Cahill and the Diocese co-operated fully, the PSNI, the Public Prosecution Service, the social services and I, as Bishop of this Diocese, are satisfied that there was no basis for the allegation.
"The preliminary canonical enquiry was completed and Fr Sean Cahill has resumed priestly ministry, the same innocent priest he was when he voluntarily stepped aside in February 2010.
"Unfounded allegations have a devastating effect on any person, but the allegations levelled against Fr Sean Cahill, who has dedicated his life to selfless service of Church and community, damage not only his life but also his family, his parish, his diocese, the Church and wider society.
"In addition, such baseless allegations do colossal damage to the cause of the genuine survivors of abuse, including clerical abuse."
Bishop Treanor explained that on a number of occasions he had emphasised and encouraged a "culture of vigilance".
He said it was incumbent on everyone to ensure that safeguarding practices with children are of the highest standard and that codes of conduct, must always be "beyond reproach".
The PSNI is investigating 170 separate complaints of clerical and institutional abuse, a spokesman said last night.
He added: "130 are of sexual assault and 40 of physical assault.
"The vast majority relate to incidents at least 20 years ago but the overall time range of the 170 separate complaints is from five years to 40 years ago."