Belfast Telegraph

Abuse victim raps Majella O'Donnell over backing for Sir Cliff Richard

By Greg Harkin

A victim of a paedophile priest has criticised Majella O'Donnell over her public support for singer Sir Cliff Richard following the launch of a police investigation.

Sir Cliff strenuously denies an historical child sex abuse allegation after his home was searched by police last week.

Majella, wife of country singer Daniel O'Donnell and a close friend of Sir Cliff, took to Twitter to defend him.

Majella (54) said she believed the legendary singer had been "treated appallingly" by police after his home in England was searched with the operation captured live by the BBC.

But Michael Connolly, who lives close to the O'Donnells' family home in Dungloe, Co Donegal, said Majella should apologise for her comments.

"It is disappointing that Majella O'Donnell who owes so much to public support, could not have reserved her judgment until the complete investigation has come to an end with regard to the Cliff Richard allegations," said Connolly, a survivor of clerical sexual abuse. "If Cliff Richard is responsible for the acts he is being accused of there is a victim who is carrying a painful legacy."

He added: "I do not agree with Cliff Richard's name being released before charges have been brought.

"A judicial review of releasing names should be brought as a matter of urgency. Standalone cases are very difficult to pursue through the law courts or for the victim and consideration should be given to this fact. Majella O'Donnell is using her position to publicly express support for Cliff Richard and is prejudicial towards the alleged victim.

"I would expect someone in her position to remain dignified and have respect for all concerned."

Mr Connolly said the rights of both people in the case needed to be respected.

"If Cliff Richard is subsequently cleared of any allegations, then that is the time for his friends to speak out, not now," he said.

Sir Cliff yesterday pulled out of a charity event at Canterbury Cathedral due to take place on September 26.

In a statement his spokesman said he "doesn't want the event to be overshadowed by the false allegation and has therefore withdrawn".

The statement added: "He is sorry for any disappointment or inconvenience caused."

The singer is currently at his home in Portugal. Yesterday, he turned down the freedom of his adopted home city. He was due to be handed the keys of Albufeira, the city's highest civic honour, but decided over the weekend that he should pull out.

Story so far

The allegation against Sir Cliff Richard comes from a man who was a boy in 1985 and claims he was sexually assaulted at a religious event.

The raid on the pop star's Berkshire penthouse caused controversy when the BBC broke news of the search, with a film crew reportedly arriving on the scene before the police. South Yorkshire Police have launched an independent probe into the leak.

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