Dromore priest steps aside pending PSNI investigation

Canon Francis Brown said he had yet to learn the details of the safeguarding allegation

The PSNI said the allegation was reported to it last month.

The PSNI said the allegation was reported to it last month.

 

The Catholic Diocese of Dromore has said it is cooperating fully with a PSNI investigation into an historical safeguarding allegation against a priest.

Canon Francis Brown has “voluntarily stepped aside from all public ministry” while the allegation was being investigated by officers, the diocese said.

On Sunday, police confirmed an investigation against a member of clergy was ongoing.

“This allegation was reported to PSNI in April 2018,” a PSNI spokesman said.

“As this is an ongoing investigation it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

In a statement on Sunday afternoon, Canon Brown said: “I have been informed by Bishop Philip Boyce, the apostolic administrator for the diocese, that an allegation of an historic nature has been made against me. The details of the allegation have not so far been made known to either myself or the diocese.

“The complaint has been made recently and I understand that some time is required to have it investigated.

“Naturally, I have agreed therefore to step aside from my role as administrator of the parish for the time being to allow the investigation to be completed.

“In accordance with the agreed protocol I shall not be involved in ministry during that period of time.

“I wish to reassure all of my parishioners, my fellow priests, deacon and religious that I look forward to a thorough and expeditious examination of this matter and I expect to return to my work in the parish in the near future.

“I hope that you will remember me in your thoughts and prayers in the weeks ahead and I look forward to returning soon to again serve you in the parish of Newry.”

Earlier, the Diocese of Dromore, which covers parts of Cos Antrim, Armagh and Down, issued a statement saying it “confirms that the PSNI are currently investigating a safeguarding allegation of an historic nature against a priest of the diocese.

“The diocese and the priest are cooperating fully with this ongoing investigation and will continue to do so.

“While this allegation is being investigated, and as part of the diocesan safeguarding procedures, the priest has voluntarily stepped aside from all public ministry pending the outcome of the investigation.”

The diocese has been at the centre of controversy surrounding its handling of abuse allegations against the late Father Malachy Finnegan who worked there for several decades.

Last March Dr John McAreavey resigned from the role of Bishop of Dromore after coming under fire for his handling of the Fr Finnegan case.

He was criticised for celebrating mass with Finnegan in 2000 and officiating over his funeral mass two years later despite knowing the nature of the allegations against him.