Belfast Telegraph

Victims of paedophile priest urged to report directly to PSNI team

By Allan Preston

Victims who were abused by the late paedophile priest Malachy Finnegan have been urged to contact a dedicated PSNI team.

A number of those abused by Finnegan in St Colman's College in Newry have already spoken out publicly about his conduct there between 1967 to 1987.

The most high-profile victim to date is Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy who said he was savagely beaten by Finnegan.

He also claimed the priest attempted to sexually groom him.

Although the disgraced cleric died in 2002 and can therefore no longer be held accountable for his crimes, the PSNI's public protection branch said other areas needed to be investigated.

These include taking action against any living offender from that time and assessing any current child safeguarding risks.

Steps will also be taken to establish if others were committing abuse at St Colman's at this time, and pinpointing when authorities became aware of Finnegan's behaviour and what action was taken, including informing the police.

Any abuse victims of Finnegan or any others at St Colman's from this time have been asked to call the PSNI non-emergency number 101.

The PSNI warned that at no time should the name of any victim, offender or witness be disclosed on social media as it could damage future legal proceedings.

Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey recently faced serious criticism in the aftermath of the revelations about Finnegan, and quit over his handling of the crisis. Yesterday, Pope Francis accepted his resignation.

Bishop McAreavey had known about allegations of child abuse against Finnegan as far back as 1994, yet conducted Fr Finnegan's funeral in 2002.

But the allegations were not reported by the diocese to police until 2006.

Philip Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe, has since been appointed in a caretaker role.

In a statement, all-Ireland Primate Eamon Martin said his prayers were with the abuse victims and the people of Dromore.

Thanking Bishop McAreavey for his 19 years of service, he said the Church would co-operate fully with the investigations.

"During this Holy Week my prayers are with the people, religious and clergy of Dromore and in particular with those who have been abused, and with all who are suffering because of abuse," the Archbishop said.

Multiple support organisations are available for victims, including the 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline on 0800 917 1414

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