Bishop told of concerns over sex abuse at parochial house

The parochial house in the Clonduff parish in Hilltown, near Newry in Co Down
The parochial house in the Clonduff parish in Hilltown, near Newry in Co Down

The Catholic Church has said “several parishioners” have expressed concerns about the use of a parochial house where sexual abuse by a priest took place.

Meanwhile, a group of victims have complained to the Police Ombudsman about a lack of police action on complaints about sexual abuse carried out by the priest in 1996.

Twelve people have made allegations of sexual abuse against former priest Malachy Finnegan, 10 of which were made after his death in 2002.

The Catholic Diocese of Dromore confirmed earlier this month it had settled a number of cases linked to Fr Finnegan, with others still ongoing.

The priest was the former school president of St Colman’s College in Newry, whose board of governors said just over a fortnight ago they had removed his image from photographs as they expressed “absolute regret and sorrow” at his actions.

The Catholic Church has confirmed that parishioners had recently approached the Bishop of Dromore, Dr John McAreavy, with “concerns” about the the parochial house in the Clonduff parish in Hilltown, Co Down.

Abuse survivor Sean Faloon, speaking to the BBC’s Spotlight programme, described how he was abused over the course of eight years, starting in 1989 when he was 10.

He described horrifying details in the interview, including abuse in the parochial house.

A spokesperson for the Dromore Diocese has issued a statement after one of the reporters behind the Spotlight programme said several parishioners won’t set foot in the parochial house after learning of the sexual abuse there.

The Church spokesperson said: “Several weeks ago discussions were held between the parish priest of Clonduff and the bishop on the future use of the parochial house.

“During a visit to the parish by the bishop on Saturday, February 17, to say mass, several parishioners expressed their concerns about the current parish priest residing in the house.

“The bishop gave assurances that this would be addressed as a matter of priority.

“Temporary arrangements were made within a few days and the parish priest communicated this to parishioners at the weekend.

“The future of the parochial house is a matter for the parish finance council to resolve in the light of the needs of the parish, including that of a new primary school.”

A spokesperson for the Police Ombudsman’s Office for Northern Ireland confirmed that “solicitors acting on behalf of five victims” had notified them “that a complaint will be made to the Police Ombudsman’s Office later this week”.