Belfast Telegraph

More victims of St Coleman's paedophile priest Fr Finnegan come forward

More victims of paedophile priest Fr Malachy Finnegan have come forward after a BBC investigation into about his abuses.

Last month a BBC Spotlight programme revealed Father Finnegan, a former teacher at St Coleman's College in Newry, had been accused of sexual abuse by 12 people.

The programme reported the allegations were reported to police in 1996, but he was not interviewed before his death in 2002.

He was employed in the college from 1967 until 1987, serving as a teacher from 1973 until 1976, and as president of the college from 1976 until 1987.

The Diocese of Dromore said it had been aware of the 12 allegations against its former teacher, with the first coming to light in 1994, and a second allegation being made in 1998.

No further allegations were made until after his death.

Appearing on Nolan Live on Wednesday, the BBC's Mandy McAuley, who was responsible for the the Spotlight programme, said she had been contacted by a number of people since the programme aired.

"A woman rang me the other night and she said ‘I think my son was abused’, and she said for the first time in 30 years thing are falling into place, things suddenly make sense," she said.

"And there are so many people ringing saying 'I can remember the feeling of terror when he came into the first-year study room, praying he wouldn't pick me out'."

Host Nolan also said his radio programme had been contacted by people who had been pupils of Father Finnegan.

Giving extended testimony on the programme were Pat Faloon and Paul Gilmore, who had both been part of the original Spotlight programme, and Dermot Nangle, who had come forward since the programme aired.

Mr Faloon said he had been abused between the ages of 10 and 17.

"He tried to make it sound like he loved me and I could trust him, and I was getting attention from a highly-regarded adult in the community," he said.

"At that time I had just been diagnosed with diabetes, and he was talking to me about diabetes and asking me questions about it. It was all very complicated to me as a 10-year-old having diabetes."

"It took me away from living those teenage years, it took me away from socialising with children of that age. I noticed throughout I wasn’t having friends like other children my age in Hilltown were having," he added.

On his experience, Dermot Nangle said: "It’s hard to say. At the time I never really thought much of it. I put it out of my head and just went on."

On the response since the story broke he said: "A lot of it is denial really. I find it astonishing that they are even in this day and age trying to deny it.

"Especially the school, I am more disappointed with the school itself. The only now are trying to airbrush him out."

In a statement, the board of governors of St Colman's College said: "The Board of Governors condemns in the strongest possible terms the physical, sexual and emotional abuse inflicted by Malachy Finnegan when he was in the employment of the College over 30 years ago. The Board of Governors is devastated that any pupil who was entrusted to the care of St. Colman’s College should ever have suffered abuse.

"The Board of Governors is aware that while this abuse took place over three decades ago, victims and their families carry its impact with them throughout their lives."

The school said after it was informed a case by a victim of Fr Finnegan was settled in October 2017 his photograph was removed from display in the school.

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