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Malachy Finnegan: Something rotten was allowed to fester at that school in the 1980s

 

Malachy Finnegan was a sadist. Throughout my seven years as a pupil at St Colman's in the 1980s, something rotten was allowed to fester at the core of that school - I saw it every day.

Thankfully, I never experienced sexual abuse there - and I feel intense sadness for those who did - but I was one of many who suffered other forms of abuse, which Finnegan knew about and allowed to flourish.

He had a duty to protect, but chose instead to indulge his destructive, criminal urges. He presided over a culture of bullying, violence, intimidation and secrecy. These experiences shape young lives and have complex, damaging echoes long into adulthood for many. I know I'm not alone in this.

It's such a shame that Finnegan isn't around to face justice and his many victims. Can he have been able to get away with this for so long without other adults in the school, or the diocese, turning a blind eye, or actively protecting him?

Will they now be called to account for their silence, their complicity?

Cultures such as that at St Colman's College create a legacy for our families, our communities and our society. The impact on mental health of the many who suffered abuse - of all forms - is a cost to us all.

I welcome Bishop McAreavey's recent comments; they feel genuine. But all those involved in the management of education need to open up and face up to the broader implications of the failure to protect children - and the adults they are to become.

This is not an historic issue.

CLEM LENEGHAN

Sussex

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