A prominent TV priest who has publicly claimed never to have “molested a child” has been questioned by police about sexual assault.
Sunday Life can reveal that Fr Hugh Kennedy — the former Administrator of St Peter’s Cathedral in west Belfast and star of BBC television documentary Choirboys — was quizzed by detectives last month.
The 59-year-old has been suspended from clerical duties until the investigation is concluded.
PSNI Detective Inspector Zoe McKee said: “Police investigating a report of a sexual assault allegation interviewed a male on November 7, 2016.
“Inquiries into this matter are ongoing.”
A spokesman for the Down and Connor Diocese of the Catholic Church confirmed Fr Kennedy has been withdrawn from ministry.
He said: “We have been informed that the PSNI has initiated an investigation into an alleged incident of an historical adult nature involving a priest of the Diocese of Down and Connor.
“Bishop Noel Treanor has suspended the cleric’s ministry pending a full and complete investigation.
“As with every person in such circumstances the cleric’s innocence is presumed until the contrary is proven and he retains the right to his good name. The Diocese cannot provide any further information whilst the investigation is ongoing.”
Until recently Fr Kennedy, whose family are from the Portstewart area, had been based in London at More House in the Archdiocese of Westminster.
The priest moved to England earlier this year having previously been Administrator of St Peter’s Cathedral.
During this time in the west Belfast parish publicly said: “I can categorically state I have never violated or molested a child placed in my trust, either in a private or priestly capacity.”
While at St Peter’s, music-loving Fr Kennedy established the hugely successful Schola Cantorum boys’ choir which featured in a three-part BBC documentary.
In relation to the issue of child protection, Fr Kennedy previously stated: “In order to reassure the parents of the children associated with Schola Cantorum, I am personally willing to engage with as many of them as possible, to satisfy them of my bona fides.”
Fr Kennedy was ordained a priest in 1981 after studying at the Irish College in Rome.
He was appointed Administrator at St Peter’s Cathedral in 2006 after a spell as parish priest at Sacred Heart in the Oldpark area of north Belfast.