FOUR weeks on from the scandal of a priest inadvertently showing explicit images to parents at a pre-first communion meeting, the extraordinary incident remains the subject of intense media interest.
It took place at a primary school in Pomeroy on March 26 when up to 16 pornographic pictures of men were projected onto a screen from a memory pen Fr Martin McVeigh had inserted into a laptop computer.
The priest reportedly snatched the memory device from the computer before quickly leaving the room. He was said to have returned some 20 minutes later having regained his composure but offered no apology or explanation. One child was present at the meeting.
Two weeks later, a laptop was reported to have been stolen following a burglary at a chapel adjacent to the main church.
Then, last Friday, parents attending a meeting with representatives of the Archdiocese of Armagh are understood to have been told the memory pen in question was destroyed by Fr McVeigh.
The priest has been granted temporary leave without prejudice while the Catholic Church carries out an investigation. Fr McVeigh has said he had no knowledge of the offending imagery.
One newspaper has reported a show of support for the priest when he attended a service last Sunday at St Brigid’s in Killyman, while several media outlets have focused on the parents’ concerns over the church’s investigation.
Fr McVeigh is said to have destroyed the memory pen with a hammer before it could be examined by investigators as he was appalled the pictures were on church property.
In the Tyrone village yesterday, not one local resident approached by the News Letter was prepared to either support or condemn the clergyman.
At the parochial house a woman said Fr McVeigh was not at home, and that she didn’t know when he was expected back, before closing the door.
On the village’s main street the response was similarly muted with a succession of people brushing off questions about the church’s response to the incident.
One woman said the matter was “nobody’s business but the people of Pomeroy”. When asked if she would be happy for Fr McVeigh to return to his duties, another woman said: “What I think about him is my business and nobody else’s.”
Outside Fr McVeigh’s Church of the Assumption – where a wedding party was posing for photographs – an on-looker said she “didn’t know anything about it” and added: “I haven’t really bothered listening to all the stuff flying about, I’m not interested.”
Several other people declined to comment at all.
Parishioners who attended last Friday’s meeting with officials from the archdiocese said they were disappointed that Fr McVeigh was not present.
In a statement released following the meeting, a church spokesman said: “The outcome of the meeting was inconclusive. There will be a further meeting at a time, date and venue to be confirmed by the Parish of Pomeroy.”
The statement added that Fr McVeigh, at his own request, “has asked for temporary leave and Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh, has agreed to this request without prejudice to any of the parties involved. No further comment will be issued at this time”.
It is understood that parents and parishioners were told by church officials that Fr McVeigh had been exonerated.
They also heard that the PSNI had found no crime had been committed and that Social Services had informed them there were no child protection issues. Those present were told Fr McVeigh would continue as parish priest.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church said yesterday there was no further statement on the progress of their investigation at the minute but that “one would be sent out” when available.