Bishop to visit Laois parish where NI abuser priest served in 1950s

Allegations of sexual and physical abuse made later against Fr Malachy Finnegan

Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Denis Nulty is  to visit the parish in Co Laois where  Fr Malachy Finnegan was a curate  in the early 1950s.  File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Denis Nulty is to visit the parish in Co Laois where Fr Malachy Finnegan was a curate in the early 1950s. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Denis Nulty is on Saturday to visit the parish in Co Laois where abuser priest Fr Malachy Finnegan was a curate for three years in the early 1950s.

Fr Finnegan, a priest of Dromore diocese in Northern Ireland, served at St Colman’s College in Newry, Co Down, from 1967 to 1971, and was a teacher there from 1973 to 1976.

He was president at the college from 1976 to 1987, after which he was parish priest at Clonduff near Newry until 1995. He died in 2002. Between 1994 and 2016, 12 allegations of child sexual abuse were made against him.

Ordained at Maynooth in June 1953, Fr Finnegan served in the diocese of Kildare & Leighlin at Rosenallis near Mountmellick, Co Laois, from 1953 to 1956.

‘No knowledge’

In a statement on the Kildare & Leighlin website, Bishop Nulty said it had “no knowledge or record of any complaint or allegation concerning Fr Finnegan”.

He continued: “I will visit Rosenallis on St Patrick’s Day to preside at the 11.00am Mass.”

He encouraged anyone with concerns over child protection to contact the diocesan designated liaison person, Tusla, and/or the Garda.

On the Clonduff parish website in Dromore diocese it is stated that Fr Finnegan was “on mission in the diocese of Kildare & Leighlin at Mountmellick, 1973-76”. This is inaccurate.

On March 1st last, Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey announced his resignation arising from questions raised over the handling of child abuse allegations against Fr Finnegan by the diocese on a BBC Spotlight programme last month.

In a statement last month also, Dr McAreavey, who became Bishop of Dromore in 1999, said he was made aware of allegations of child sexual abuse by Fr Finnegan in 1994 and that the diocese received another such allegation in 1998.

The PSNI said the first record they had of such reports about Fr Finnegan from the diocese was in 2006.

Among those who have called for an independent inquiry into Dromore’s handling of allegations against Fr Finnegan is former president Mary McAleese.

She disclosed last Monday on RTÉ Radio 1’s Today with Seán O’Rourke programme that her youngest brother Clement had been “seriously, physically, sadistically” abused by Fr Finnegan while a pupil at St Colman’s in the 1980s.

At their Spring meeting last week, the Catholic bishops reiterated their commitment to “ full co-operation with any inquiry required by statutory bodies”.