DROMORE (UNITED KINGDOM)
The Irish News [Belfast, Northern Ireland]
October 1, 2021
By Claire Simpson
THE £2.5 million set aside by the Diocese of Dromore for a clerical abuse redress scheme is “far too small” an amount, it has been claimed with more victims expected to come forward amid fears paedophile priest Malachy Finegan could have abused up to 100 boys.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, the apostolic administrator in the diocese, announced details of the scheme on Wednesday and apologised to victims and survivors.
The diocese has set aside £2.5m for the scheme, with individual payouts to be capped at £80,000.
About £2m has already been paid out in civil settlements involving 15 cases.
It is understood that although 35 men have so far contacted police with allegations that they were sexually abused by Finegan, many more have decided not to pursue any action.
A total of 70 complaints are understood to have been made to police about clerical abuse in the diocese, including allegations about Finegan.
Finegan, who died in 2002, sexually and physically abused boys during his career at St Colman’s College in Newry between 1967 and 1987.
However, at least one man has alleged he was abused by Finegan during his time at Seagoe parish between 1959 and 1967.
Finegan also carried out further serious sexual abuse while he was parish priest in Hilltown in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
There are fears that Finegan could have abused as many as 100 children over several decades.
Finegan served as a priest in Co Kildare between 1953 and 1956. Between 1956 and 1959, he served in Warrenpoint, Co Down.
For a period between 1987 and 1988, after he left St Colman’s College, Finegan had no parish but was helping other priests in the Dromore diocese.
He was parish priest in Hilltown between 1988 and 1995.
Finegan’s bishop, Francis Brooks, who died in 2010, was informed of the abuse but sent the priest to England for ‘treatment’ in 1994 instead of reporting him to the RUC.
The Irish News was contacted by a former St Colman’s pupil who said he believed the scale of the abuse perpetrated by Finegan is much wider.
The man, who wished to remain anonymous, said the abuse included severe beatings, as well as inappropriate touching and conversations, and attempts at sexual grooming.
Claire McKeegan, of Phoenix Law, represents the majority of Finegan’s victims. She said most of her clients do not want to take part in the redress process.
“For them it was never about compensation but about exposing the true level of crimes being committed within the Catholic Church,” she said.
“The fact is so many people were aware of this (Finegan) and did nothing to protect vulnerable children.
“We haven’t got the details of the full redress scheme yet so we do need to consider it but those clients I have spoken to are not convinced that this is the action they would choose to take.”
Ms McKeegan said a £2.5 million pot is “far too small given the number of victims”.
“The cases we have resolved have gone into six figures,” she said.
“It’s very obviously an economic decision on behalf of the Church, in the most cost effective manner, to minimise their liability and minimise the most grievous harms that can be perpetrated against a child by a person of trust in a school.”
Ms McKeegan said although some schemes, which do not involve a traumatic court process, can be positive for clerical abuse victims, they need to be carried out independent of any church.
“For many survivors who went though the HIA (Historical Institutional Abuse) redress scheme they have found they have been able to resolve issues and get closure but there was a public inquiry report which vindicated them and a full examination of all the details prior to that redress scheme,” she said.
“The HIA Redress Board is headed up by members of our independent judiciary. This scheme has been devised by the Church to compensate victims of the Church without the oversight of independent judiciary.”
Ms McKeegan said clerical abuse “was perpetrated across Northern Ireland” and called on the Church to provide adequate compensation.
“The Catholic Church is one of the richest institutions in the world,” she said.
“How they choose to organise their financial accounts is up to them but to tell our clients that they have set aside £2.5 million when their claims are worth substantially more is another insult.”