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St Colman’s College

Fr Malachy Finnegan: Police to investigate when authorities became aware of priest's abuse

The PSNI will also investigate if there was any abuse of children by any other person at the Newry school where he worked.

THE PSNI WILL investigate claims of sexual abuse made against Father Malachy Finnegan who worked at a school in Newry.

Fr Finnegan, who died in 2002, was a teacher at St Colman’s College in Newry from 1967 to 1976 and was later President of the school.

Abuse claims against him were detailed in a BBC Spotlight programme in February. The revelation that John McAreavey had officiated at the funeral mass of Finnegan led to his resignation as Bishop of Dromore earlier this month.

It was announced yesterday that Pope Francis had accepted his resignation.

The PSNI has today announced that it wants to:

  • Establish and take action against any living offender, from that time, and importantly assess if there are any current child safeguarding risks
  • Determine if there was any other abuse of children committed by any other person, other than Fr Finnegan, at St. Colman’s College in Newry when Fr Finnegan worked there between the mid to late 60s to the mid to late 80s
  • Establish whether there are any lessons to be learned from the way in which authorities acted to safeguard children, whether collectively or individually
  • Ascertain when any authority first became aware of Father Finnegan’s offending behaviour; what action was taken to ensure adequate safeguarding was implemented; and what information, if any, about his offending was reported to the police service at that time

Earlier this month, former President Mary McAleese said that Finnegan’s abuse had affected her family, and that her brother Clem Lenaghan had been abused by the priest.

“My youngest brother, my baby brother, the youngest of nine children, was seriously, physically, sadistically abused by Malachy Finnegan,” McAleese told RTÉ.

In a statement, Leneghan said he didn’t want reports of his abuse to take the spotlight from the quest for justice against his abuser. He said:

I do not wish my story to take the spotlight away from where it belongs, which is on the need for truth and justice for the many victims of Finnegan’s lifetime of criminal sexual abuse of children. I call on Karen Bradley as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to lose no time in intiativing an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse at St Colman’s College.
While Finnegan himself can no longer be called to account in the courts, I know that other adults both in St Colman’s and more broadly within the Dromore Diocese, knew of his activities and failed to act. Gentlemen, you know who you are.
On behalf of all victims of abuse of whatever form, I call on you now to come forward and tell what you knot to the PSNI. Please do it today. If you can find the courage to speak, then you may even now help bring some healing for those who continue to suffer for the crimes of Malachy Finnegan. If you choose to continue in your silence, history will not be kind to your memory.

The PSNI wants anyone who may have been abused by Finnegan, or abused by any other person at St Colman’s between 1967 and 1987, to get in contact.

“Please report the matter directly to the PSNI on 101, the non-emergency number,” a statement this morning said.

“If you have been the victim of any sexual or physical violence or abuse, whether recently or in the past, whether connected to any church or any school or not, or if you are the parent of a child this has happened to, report the matter directly to the police service on 101, the non-emergency line.

In an emergency situation dial the police emergency number 999. Specially trained officers will investigate what has happened to you.

The school began removing images of the priest from its building last year after the school’s Board of Governors was informed that the Diocese had reached a settlement with one of Finnegan’s victims, the BBC reported.

Read: Mary McAleese says her brother was ‘seriously, physically, sadistically abused by Malachy Finnegan’ >

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