Abuse victims’ advocate was ‘open’ about Catholic church role

A Stormont-appointed advocate for institutional abuse survivors “has been open” about his training for the position of deacon in the Catholic church, the NI Executive has said.

Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 3:07 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 3:19 pm
Brendan McAllister. Pacemaker image

A number of victims’ groups called for Brendan McAllister to stand down, or be removed from his post, after it became apparent he has been officiating at Catholic church services at St Peter’s in Warrenpoint.

Spokespersons for SAVIA (Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse) said that Mr McAllister’s elevation to a leadership role with the church made his positions as the interim advocate for victims untenable – as around 80% of its members had been abused by members of the Catholic clergy.

Solicitor Claire McKeegan, acting for SAVIA, said: “He has made a declaration of intent to become a member of the clergy which at least implies the perception of a conflict of interest.”

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On Monday, Mr McAllister said he has been “assisting with liturgy ... in a parish setting,” and added: “From the time of my appointment as interim advocate senior officials of the Executive Office have been aware that I have been preparing for future ministry in the Catholic Church. The leaders of all five HIA victims groups have also been aware and have previously expressed their good wishes.”

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office said: “All the victims and survivor groups were asked to submit names of suitable candidates for the role of interim advocate, and Mr McAllister’s name was put forward by one of the groups in 2019.

“Mr McAllister has been open that he was in training with a view to being ordained as a deacon in the Catholic church in 2021 with those involved in his selection process as interim advocate and subsequently with victims and survivor groups.

“The selection panel did not consider that this was a conflict of interest as it was not due to occur until after it was anticipated the interim advocate’s role would come to an end.

“Since his appointment, Mr McAllister has been taking forward work with victims and survivor groups and facilitating discussions in relation to the HIA legislation, to which he secured amendments; the application process; and the establishment of support services.”

The spokeswoman added: “The competition for appointment of a permanent commissioner for survivors of institutional childhood abuse (COSICA) is currently under way and it is expected that an appointment will be made in late August. In line with the conditions for his appointment as interim advocate, Mr McAllister will not be a candidate for this post.”