Belfast Telegraph

Paedophile priest's victim calls for removal of mosaic tribute to bishop who 'ignored pleas'

The mosaic which the Diocese of Dromore has been urged to remove from Newry Cathedral
The mosaic which the Diocese of Dromore has been urged to remove from Newry Cathedral
Malachy Finegan
Francis Brooks
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A victim of a paedophile priest in Newry has called for the removal of a mosaic dedicated to a bishop who he claims ignored his plea for help.

In March last year a police team was set up to investigate claims of abuse by Malachy Finegan over 20 years at St Colman's College.

The probe was expanded to include complaints of physical and sexual abuse as well as an alleged cover-up by staff in the 1960s and 1970s.

One victim has now said he told the late Bishop Francis Brooks about the abuse in the 1980s, but the only response was an offer of a trip to Lourdes to be "healed".

Speaking to the Newry Reporter, he has called for the removal of the mosaic tribute to Bishop Brooks in Newry Cathedral which was made during major renovations in the 1990s.

He has also asked for pictures of Bishop Brooks to be removed from St Colman's College, where he was principal before Finegan took over in 1976.

"I haven't been to the cathedral since the renovation works have been done - I can't," he said.

"I told Bishop Brooks in 1985 about the childhood sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of Malachy Finegan over many years and he did nothing to stop him.

"He actually offered to take me to Lourdes to heal me.

"If he was alive now, he would and should be part of the police investigation as he failed me and many others, but instead he is honoured in this ornate way.

"They say that they are listening to survivors and victims, but I wrote to them over a year ago and didn't even get a reply."

Solicitor Claire McKeegan from Phoenix Law - who is representing a number of victims - has twice written to the Dromore Diocese to request the removal of the coat of arms that represents Bishop Brooks on the mosaic.

The Newry Reporter revealed the second letter was responded to by the diocese, which did not confirm if it would remove the mosaic.

A diocese spokesperson said yesterday they were not in a position to comment on matters currently under investigation by the PSNI.

Bishop Brooks, who passed away in September 2010, had sent Finegan to England for "treatment" in 1994 but failed to report him to the authorities.

Bishop Brooks' successor John McAreavey stepped down as bishop last year after it emerged he celebrated Mass with Finegan despite knowing he was a child abuser. Finegan died in 2002 without facing justice.

Last week it emerged the police team investigating Finegan passed files on seven people to the Public Prosecution Service.

It is understood that five related to complaints of physical abuse and two to sexual abuse.

Yesterday, it was announced that Pope Francis has appointed the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, to take charge of the Dromore Diocese on a temporary basis. The news was welcomed by Bishop Philip Boyce, who has held the role since Mr McAreavey stood down last year.

In addition to his existing role as Archbishop of Armagh, Archbishop Martin said he would oversee a continued focus on child safety.

"One of my first priorities in the diocese will be to receive a full briefing on safeguarding issues and to be updated on any statutory investigations into these matters," he said.

"I shall, of course, fully co-operate with developments in this regard.

"I will also strongly encourage the positive pastoral initiatives and administrative developments already under way in the diocese to ensure that the parishes of Dromore remain vibrant, missionary and in a state of readiness for the future."

In August last year, four priests were interviewed by police in relation to the Finegan investigation.

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