Belfast Telegraph

BBCNI Spotlight programme on disgraced priest Malachy Finnegan wins top award

Spotlight presenter Mandy McAuley and producer Denise O’Connor
Spotlight presenter Mandy McAuley and producer Denise O’Connor
Loughinisland film-makers Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey at the Amnesty Media Awards in London

By Gillian Halliday

A hard-hitting BBCNI investigation into the paedophile priest Malachy Finnegan has won a prestigious award from Amnesty International.

The Spotlight programme into the disgraced clergyman, who died in 2002, received the regional media accolade at the charity's Media Awards 2019 held in London.

Buried Secrets, which aired last year, examined a litany of child abuse allegations, understood to have taken place at St Colman's College in Newry where Finnegan taught, and later in the parish of Clonduff in Co Down.

The programme, presented by Mandy McAuley, also interviewed survivors of the clergyman's abuse.

Spotlight fought off competition from its BBC Scotland counterparts behind Disclosure: Dead in Police Custody, as well as award-winning Scottish-based investigative web journalism platform, The Ferret for its investigation into homelessness.

Belfast journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney, currently facing prosecution after being arrested in connection with a documentary exposing police collusion in the Loughinisland massacre of 1994, also received recognition at Wednesday's ceremony.

The pair, who were arrested over the alleged theft of confidential material connected to the police investigation into Loughinisland from the Police Ombudsman, gave a speech about their experiences.

The event, which was held in the Bafta venue and hosted by Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman, also saw The Guardian take home Amnesty's Impact Award for its Windrush Scandal campaign.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: "Without a free press, it's extremely difficult to expose wrong-doing and hold leaders to account. But even here in the UK we're seeing it being threatened - especially with the sinister arrest of Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey in Northern Ireland last year.

"That's why our awards are about congratulating the achievements of the media and championing its role in creating a fairer, more open world."

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