Belfast Telegraph

Bishop says sorry for Finnegan abuse as victim tells of ordeal

By Shona Murray

A Bishop in the Republic has apologised for the abuse carried out by notorious Newry priest Malachy Finnegan, and urged victims to go to the authorities.

Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, said in his St Patrick's Day homily on Saturday that he was worried people could be "suffering in silence".

Speaking at St Brigid's Church, Rosenallis, Co Laois, Bishop Nulty confirmed that the paedophile priest, who died in 2002, served in his diocese.

He said: "The joy and enthusiasm of family life that I meet every day on my Confirmation journey contrasts very sharply with the hurt and betrayal of survivors who may have suffered or continue to suffer from the corrupting and abusive actions of the late Father Malachy Finnegan, a priest of the Diocese of Dromore.

"Fr Finnegan worked here in Rosenallis as a newly ordained priest from 1953 to 1956.

"While he died in 2002, I am very aware that the evil that abusers do lives on, long after they themselves have died.

"As a bishop, I am deeply ashamed that a priest would inflict such evil and criminal abuse on a child."

Among Finnegan's victims was 'Mark', who was 15 when he was raped by the cleric.

He said the violence and cruelty he endured at St Colman's College in Newry began almost immediately after he started to attend the school.

"I got slapped around the head in the first week of first year," he said in an interview with the Sunday Independent.

"But what was most memorable was the fear they instilled in us from day one."

Mark wants his identity kept private for now. Until three weeks ago, he had suppressed the trauma of this part of his life, having kept it a secret from his wife of 16 years.

His decision to open up to her was prompted by the resignation of John McAreavey as Bishop of Dromore earlier this month and also by the emergence of new cases detailing further evidence of exploitation of children by Finnegan.

"I remember the day we went to McCartan Brothers' clothes shop in Newry to get my uniform," Mark said.

"I was also an avid reader. I had all these glorified notions of what boarding school would be like."

But "the fear, the worry, the bullying, the cajoling and the extreme violence" in the name of corporal punishment became "the norm" from day one, he added.

"At the end of the first week, I told my dad I got battered for getting out of my bed and going to the toilet, or got caned with six of the best for not getting my maths right," Mark said. "He said: 'Well, you must have deserved it'."

Finnegan became president of St Colman's during Mark's third year in 1976, having been there since 1967.

At least 17 people including one woman have come forward with allegations of a wide range of abuse including serious physical and sexual assault as well as rape, at the hands of Finnegan.

He was never questioned by police or prosecuted.

"On one occasion, I'd been caught doing something I shouldn't have and was sent to Malachy Finnegan's office for punishment," Mark said.

"I went to see him after final study; it was in the evening time, around seven or eight.

"He waddled in; he was so large, he didn't walk, but waddled, his keys jangling away.

"He never turned the light on.

"He went straight to his desk where he kept a selection of canes."

Then, after caning Mark, he raped him.

Belfast Telegraph

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