Roman Catholic Diocese of Dromore to sell land to help pay off survivors of clerical abuse

News Letter [Belfast, Northern Ireland]

December 3, 2023

By Michael Scott

The Diocese of Dromore is to sell the Bishop’s House and land on Newry’s Armagh Road to help pay compensation claims to survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

Parishioners were informed of the move in a letter by Archbishop Eamon Martin in his role as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese.

In the letter Archbishop Martin sets out the “steps that the Diocese has been taking to meet its financial and other responsibilities for the awful sins and crimes of abuse in the past”.

He adds that the “impact of child abuse on victims and survivors is deeply personal and is carried differently by each one, and by those close to them”, and to that end the Diocese offers and funds counselling for survivors so “those who have been affected by abuse can be accompanied towards spiritual peace, one step at a time”.

Some survivors have chosen to make claims for compensation by taking legal cases against the Diocese of Dromore on account of the abuse perpetrated against them, while others have been compensated via a Redress Scheme put in place by the Diocese in September 2021 for those survivors who wish to avail of it.

“As Apostolic Administrator, I have also held pastoral meetings with those survivors who request such an opportunity,” adds the Archbishop.

“We are all aware of the terrible wrong that was done to many innocent children in the past and we want to make sure we do everything in our power to prevent anything like that happening again.”

He added that the Diocese of Dromore abides fully by the Safeguarding Policy and Guidance developed by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Archbishop Martin told parishioners that “it is vitally important that the Diocese has the necessary human and financial resources going forward for safeguarding best practice and for responding, via counselling, support and just compensation and redress to those who have been abused” while also ensuring the Diocese “contributes its share to supporting the national safeguarding structures which ensure that our standards remain up to date”.

He continued: “For this reason, being conscious that remaining diocesan funds are limited, I have been in discussions over the past two years with the Directors of the Dromore Diocesan Trust about identifying any diocesan assets that could be sold in order to meet our existing and ongoing safeguarding responsibilities.

“Following an extensive feasibility study, the Trust has identified lands at Armagh Road, Newry, which it proposes to sell in order to finance the liabilities of the Diocese.

“These lands, adjacent to, and including the existing Bishop’s House, are in the ownership of the Diocese of Dromore.

“Given their proximity to the amenities of Newry City Centre and to various educational and retail facilities, we understand that sections of the land would likely be very suitable for residential development in order to help meet the identified social and private housing need in the Newry area.”

The Archbishop apologised “unreservedly for the hurt and damage caused to victims and survivors of any priest or church representative acting under its authority.

“Such behaviour towards children and vulnerable people was and remains abhorrent, inexcusable, and indefensible.

“I also apologise to the people of the Diocese who have felt that their trust in the Church was betrayed and that they were badly let down.”