Co Louth priest cleared of abuse allegation
A CO Louth parish priest who stood down from ministry in August of last year following an allegation of child abuse has been cleared in an investigation by the PSNI.
Fr Oliver Brennan first heard of the allegation, which dated back over 30 years previously, shortly before the Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh Gerard Clifford arrived in Blackrock parish, Co Louth, to announce that the priest was standing aside from ministry pending an investigation.
Bishop Clifford made the announcement at Mass on Saturday, August 14th, 2010. He told the congregation of the allegation and that Fr Brennan had agreed to stand aside pending the outcome of an investigation.
He said “the allegation has been reported to the civil authorities, and the diocese and the priest will fully co-operate with any investigation. Whilst this process is ongoing the priest is entitled to the benefit of a presumption of innocence.”
Fr Brennan said at the time that he was “absolutely innocent”.
Local people said at the time that there was “uproar and horror” at the announcement and that a group of parishioners confronted Bishop Clifford in the sacristy.
Yesterday, in a statement through his solicitors, Fr Brennan said that “the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland contacted my solicitor to confirm that there is no substance or credibility to the allegations and that I have no case to answer. Therefore there will be no prosecution of any sort against me.”
He continued:”I have always refuted these false and groundless allegations. Clear in the knowledge that there was no substance to the allegations, I was determined to maintain my good name and reputation. I felt very hurt personally as well as for my family, friends and parishioners when the allegations were made.”
He had “voluntarily agreed to take administrative leave while the matter was under investigation, an investigation that has taken 15 long months. During that time I was advised not to speak publicly on the matter.”
The priest expressed gratitude “for the wonderful and continuous support and the prayerful good wishes from so many people during these difficult months. I continue to pray for the person who has made these allegations against me.”
He intended “to return to ministry in the church at the earliest possible date so that I can continue to provide for many years to come a worthwhile service to the people I have been called to serve.”
Weeks prior to the allegation being made parishioners in Blackrock threatened to refuse to help with payment of more than €1 million owed by the parish when it was announced that Fr Brennan was to be moved.
Fr Brennan also made it clear to the Archbishop of Armagh Cardinal Brady that he did not want to be transferred.