School makes payment over priest abuse claim

A man who claims a paedophile priest subjected him to sexual and physical abuse at a Co Down school is to receive a “five-figure” payout, his lawyer announced today.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 1:45 pm
Father Malachy Finnegan

The sum forms part of a resolution reached in his action centred on alleged historic assaults by the late Fr Malachy Finnegan.

No admission of liability has been made in proceedings brought against the Trustees and Board of Governors at St Colman’s College in Newry and the Diocese of Dromore.

But the plaintiff’s solicitor, Kevin Winters, said: “This latest financial settlement highlights again the trail of emotional destruction left by Malachy Finnegan.”

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Now aged in his mid sixties, the man sued over allegations he was targeted while boarding at the school as an 11-year-old pupil in the late 1960s.

He claimed that he was molested, punched and beaten in treatment which went beyond acceptable corporal punishment at the time.

According to papers in the case the alleged abuse left him “terrified” of Finnegan.

At the High Court today counsel for the plaintiff, who is not being named, announced that his claim for negligence has been settled on confidential terms.

Mr Justice McAlinden was told the defendants are to pay his costs as part of the resolution.

The case is one of a number of actions focused on the activities of Finnegan.

He taught and worked at St Colman’s College from 1967 to 1987, spending the last decade as the school’s president.

The priest, who died on 2002, was accused of a long campaign of child sexual abuse, but never prosecuted or questioned by police about claims made against him.

In 2018 it emerged that the Diocese of Dromore had settled a claim made by one of his alleged victims.

At that stage the Board of Governors at St Colman’s condemned the physical, sexual and emotional abuse inflicted by Finnegan while working there.

The priest’s image was also removed from the school’s photographs.

At the time the PSNI set up a team of detectives to investigate Finnegan’s activities.

Nine people were said to have been interviewed under caution, but no direction was made to prosecute anyone.

With a Police Ombudsman inquiry into earlier alleged RUC failings also closed, no findings have been made of any institutional connivance within the Church.

Following the latest settlement Mr Winters confirmed: “My client is to receive a five-figure sum from the Diocese as part of the terms reached.”

He said his client still suffers from the trauma of what happened to him.

“This case is an example of severe physical punishment that went beyond what was then normal corporal punishment, and it happened systemically,” Mr Winters claimed.

He added: “Significant compensation is important, but it is only part of the reparation process for survivors of historic clerical child sex abuse.

Transparent accountability is paramount. A fully independent inquiry is a starting point.”