Irish Times [Dublin, Ireland]
June 21, 2021
By Alan Erwin
Fr Malachy Finnegan taught and worked at St Colman’s College, Co Down from 1967 to 1987
A man abused for years by a priest at a Co Down school is to receive a “six-figure sum” in damages, the high court in Belfast heard on Monday.
The pay-out to Tony Gribben forms part of a settlement reached in his lawsuit over the historic sexual and physical assaults he suffered at the hands of the late Fr Malachy Finnegan.
A personal apology will also be issued on behalf of the Catholic Primate, Archbishop Eamon Martin under the terms of agreement.
Mr Gribben (61) sued the trustees and board of governors at St Colman’s College in Newry and the Diocese of Dromore.
Outside court he said: “The diocese needs to be completely transparent in cooperating with a long overdue investigation on its failings.”
Mr Gribben claimed for negligence and failures to protect him from Fr Finnegan’s alleged “industrial-scale abuse” while he was a pupil at the school from 1970 to 1977.
In court on Monday, his barrister announced that a resolution had been reached in the action.
Liam McCollum QC, for the defendants, told the court his clients had gone beyond their legal obligations. “They want me to express their apologies to the plaintiff for the terrible things that happened to him,” he said.
Approving the terms reached, Mr Justice McAlinden stressed that the circumstances of the action should not be forgotten. The plaintiff was, it would appear, abused by a member of the clergy during his time at school,” he said.
“Nothing said or done in dealing with the legal complexities of such issues takes away from the stress that individual has suffered.”
Fr Finnegan taught and worked at St Colman’s College from 1967 to 1987, spending the last decade as the school’s president. He went on to serve as a parish priest in Clonduff, Co Down. The priest, who died on 2002, was accused of child sexual abuse over a long period 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.