Former home of paedophile priest Malachy Finegan set alight in Co Down

The Irish News [Belfast, Northern Ireland]

August 31, 2023

By Suzanne McGonagle

The former home of a notorious paedophile priest has been set alight in Co Down.

Police spotted the blaze at the vacant parochial house in Hilltown where Fr Malachy Finegan had lived early on Thursday morning.

Extensive damage was caused to the building during the blaze, which police believe was started deliberately.

Finegan, who died in 2002, was parish priest for Clonduff parish in Hilltown in the 1990s.

He has been accused of sexually abusing numerous children over several decades. He was never prosecuted.

Finegan, who also taught and worked at St Colman’s College in Newry from 1967 to 1987, is alleged to have carried out some of his abuse at the parochial house.

In 2019, the Clonduff Parish with which the building is connected launched a consultation among parishioners on the future of the building. It has lain vacant for a number of years.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: “A passing police patrol became aware of a fire at a vacant parochial house, on the Castlewellan Road in Hilltown, shortly before 3am.

“NIFRS personnel were in attendance and brought the blaze under control, however, extensive damage has been caused to the property.

“It is believed at this time that the fire was started deliberately.

“An investigation into the incident is underway and officers would ask anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the area or who has any information which could assist them with their enquiries, to contact police at Ardmore station on 101.”

NIFRS said the incident at the two-storey property lasted around three hours.

A spokesperson added that “the cause of the fire is being treated as deliberate at this time”.

It comes just weeks after The Irish News revealed that a Co Down man abused by Finegan had received a £400,000 settlement.

The 51-year-old, who wants to remain anonymous, was abused by Finegan over a three-year period in the mid-1980s when he was a student at St Colman’s College.

His legal team, KRW Law, said it is believed to be the biggest ever settlement for a victim of abuse by Finegan.