Belfast Telegraph

Nolan tells paedophiles 'we are coming to get you' - BBC presenter accused of bias over Father Finnegan reporting

By Jonathan Bell

BBC presenter Stephen Nolan has vowed to track down and expose paedophiles pledging to pass all the evidence his team gather to the authorities.

The broadcaster issued the warning on his Friday morning Radio Ulster programme as he continued his reporting into the Father Malachy Finnegan scandal.

The paedophile priest who died in 2002 was accused of the sexual abuse of 12 children while at St Colman's College in Newry. He was a teacher at the school from 1967 to 1976 and was later its president for 11 years.

Fr Finnegan was never prosecuted for abuse, but allegations were reviewed by the Catholic Church's clerical abuse watchdog the National Board for Safeguarding Children. Police said a formal complaint was never made while the priest but they did receive a report of historical abuse. They have set up a special task force to look into the matter.

The allegations concern historical abuse and there is no evidence whatsoever of incidents having taken place in recent years.

Nolan too said he has set up a special team to examine the many claims brought to his team since the original BBC Spotlight investigation.

"Nothing motivates me more than trying to bring information about this type of story into the public domain," he told his listeners. 

"We are conducting a major investigation - because it is needed."

Following an outcry over how the church handled the claims, Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey - who admitted an "error in judgement" in officiating the priest's funeral - resigned acknowledging how media reporting of the allegations had "upset many people in the Diocese and further afield."

The Diocese of Dromore has accused Mr Nolan of "biased" reporting into the matter, something the award-winning radio host and the BBC rejected.

Victim Sean Faloon said he was heartened by the media coverage as it sent a message out to paedophiles, or those contemplating child abuse, that their actions would be exposed and their victims would be encouraged to speak out.

Mr Nolan added: "There might just be some paedophiles who abused in the past who should hear me loud and clear this morning when I tell them we are currently receiving information about you and we are coming after you.

"And we are coming after you to ask why you did this to children and we are giving this information immediately to the authorities."

Mr Nolan also revealed that the Diocese of Dromore had accused his show of "biased reporting" over its extensive coverage of the abuse of children in the school. The story has dominated the presenter's mid-morning radio programme on Thursday and Friday and his Wednesday evening television programme.

He said he made "no apology" for covering the story and giving victims the opportunity to have their story told.

Asked to elaborate on the claims, the Diocese of Dromore said it had no further comment to make.

A BBC spokeswoman added: "Our coverage of this sensitive and important story has been fair, accurate and impartial."

St Colman's College Newry said it would not comment on the reporting. of the matter.

In a statement, the Board of Governors of St Colman’s added: "The Board re-iterates its previous statement that it condemns in the strongest terms the abuse inflicted by Malachy Finnegan and is devastated that any pupil who was entrusted to the care of St Colman’s College should ever have suffered abuse.

“The school has already asked anyone affected by the actions of Malachy Finnegan to inform the PSNI.  Parents and guardians have also been advised that they can bring any concerns to the attention of the College’s Safeguarding Team.

“The school will co-operate fully with any inquiry into historic abuse by Malachy Finnegan.

“With regard to Malachy Finnegan’s employment, the decision to reallocate priests at the time, including Malachy Finnegan, rested with the then Bishop, Francis Brooks.  The Bishop of the Diocese was responsible for the appointment and removal of the school’s President.”

“The school’s scheme of management is that the Bishop or his nominee is the Chair of the Board.  The Board has not yet been formally notified of Bishop McAreavey’s resignation.”

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