Co Down parents object to John McAreavey’s role in Confirmation

Further abuse claims about Fr Malachy Finnegan at whose funeral bishop officiated

Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey has said he “would not be an obstacle” to   Co Down parents worried about this year’s Confirmation. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey has said he “would not be an obstacle” to Co Down parents worried about this year’s Confirmation. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


Parents at some primary schools in Co Down have said they do not want Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey to take part in Confirmation ceremonies involving their children later this year.

Dromore diocese includes most of Co Down.

It follows further allegations of abuse by the late Fr Malachy Finnegan, a former president at St Colman’s College Newry, in a BBC Spotlight programme earlier this month.

Bishop McAreavey officiated at Fr Finnegan’s funeral Mass in 2002.

Fr Finnegan served at St Colman’s from 1967 to 1971 and was a teacher from 1973 to 1976. He was president of the college from 1976 to 1987. Between 1994 and 2016, 12 allegations of abuse were made against him.

Bishop McAreavey noted in a statement prior to the Spotlight programme being broadcast: “The first allegation against Malachy Finnegan came to light in 1994 some seven years after he left St Colman’s College. The second allegation came in 1998 and was not related to his tenure at St Colman’s. No further allegations emerged until after his death in January 2002.”

He also said “my decision to say the funeral Mass of Malachy Finnegan in 2002 was the wrong one. In November 2002 a victim told me how hurt he was by this, I realised that I had made an error of judgment. It is something I regret and will not repeat.”

‘Spotlight’ programme

Since the Spotlight programme was broadcast, three more people have come forward making allegations against Fr Finnegan, Bishop McAreavey has said.

In a statement about parents’ concerns over forthcoming Confirmation ceremonies, a spokesman for Bishop McAreavey said “some concerned parents from the Hilltown area whose children are to receive the sacrament of Confirmation later this year inquired whether they could meet the bishop last Thursday.”

The spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph: “that request was immediately responded to and a meeting took place on Friday [February] 16th. The parents were met by the bishop, the director of safeguarding and an adviser to the diocese. The adviser chaired the meeting. Parents expressed their reservations about this year’s Confirmation service in light of the revelations of the Spotlight programme.

“The bishop made it clear that he understood their position and that he would not be an obstacle to their wishes when the time came. That remains his position.

Parish basis

“There have been some sporadic concerns expressed by some other parents in a few other areas. Decisions on these will be taken at a parish basis in consultation with parish priests closer to the time of Confirmation and an announcement will be made at that time.”

Clonduff GAA club in Hilltown has urged those who may have been affected by Fr Finnegan’s actions to contact the police.

In a statement, it said it has been “made aware” by club members past and present or family and friends of club members, they may have been abused by Fr Finnegan.

“Clonduff GAA Club advises anyone who has been a victim of Malachy Finnegan’s abuse to bring this to the attention of the PSNI,” it said.