Claim against County down Priest Investigated

BBC News
September 28, 2010

A County Down priest has stepped aside from his pastoral duties voluntarily while an allegation made against him is investigated.

The Down and Connor diocese said a complaint "in relation to child safeguarding" had been made against Drumaroad priest Father Peter Donnelly.

It said the complaint dated back to the 1980s.

Fr Donnelly denies the allegation and has confirmed he intends to co-operate fully with the investigation.

In a statement issued through his legal representatives, the priest said he was informed towards the end of last week that an allegation had been made against him to the police.

He immediately contacted his solicitors, who then contacted the "relevant authorities" on his behalf.

The firm said that those authorities "only today (Tuesday) confirmed that this allegation allegedly arose some 27 years ago".

The diocesan statement to the parishioners of Drumaroad and Clanvaraghen said the priest had "voluntarily agreed to relinquish all pastoral duties while the investigation is being pursued.

"During the period of the investigation, Fr Donnelly continues to enjoy the natural right of every person to the presumption of innocence, the statement said.

The diocese confirmed it was "cooperating fully with the civil authorities in their investigations in regard to this complaint".

"In view of the ongoing police investigation, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment on the complaint at this time," the statement said.


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