Northern Ireland: Amnesty calls for clerical child abuse inquiry following latest revelations
Amnesty International has called for Secretary of State Karen Bradley to set up a public inquiry into clerical child sex abuse in Northern Ireland following revelations of abuse by Father Malachy Finnegan, former president of St Colman’s College in Newry.
Fr Finnegan, who died in 2002, was accused of sex abuse by 12 people. Victims claim that police in Newry were alerted to the allegations in 1996 but failed to interview the priest. The police say that a formal complaint was never made, but they did receive a report of historical abuse.
Amnesty maintains that the Fr Finnegan abuse scandal is the latest in a litany of such cases, and have again called for a full public inquiry which the human rights organisation first made in November 2012.
Reviews by the Catholic Church’s own safeguarding body have revealed that more than 100 priests in Northern Ireland are alleged to have been responsible for child abuse since the mid-1970s.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:
“The Fr Finnegan abuse scandal is horrifying but is not an isolated case. Rather, it is yet another example of how paedophile priests appear to have been facilitated by the church authorities in continuing their vile abuse. It is just the latest example of how the church authorities prioritised the protection of reputation over the protection of children.
“The police and state authorities also have serious questions to answer, in this and in other cases, with regards to their apparent failure to adequately investigate very serious allegations and intervene to bring the alleged abuse to an end.
“We already know that church leaders have repeatedly failed to report criminal activity to the police, have sworn child victims to secrecy, and moved abusive priests across parish lines and across borders, allowing them to evade justice and leaving them free to abuse more children.
“That is why Amnesty now calls for the Secretary of State to establish a public inquiry into the scale and circumstances of clerical child abuse in Northern Ireland. To date, clerical abuse victims here have been let down, not just by the church, but also by the authorities.
“Survivors of clerical abuse in the Republic of Ireland have seen the state run inquiries in the dioceses of Dublin, Ferns and Cloyne, and have seen the Taoiseach speak out on behalf of victims.
“In Northern Ireland, to date, there has been no such examination. That situation must now end and we hope that local political leaders will add their voices to our call to the Secretary of State.”
Solicitor Claire McKeegan of KRW Law, who represents a number of Fr Finnegan’s victims, said:
“We have received calls from numerous further victims and witnesses of Malachy Finnegan's vile abuses since the significant settlement by our client known as ‘Patrick’ was made public recently.
“The message is clear: victims demand a public inquiry into clerical abuse in Northern Ireland without any further delay.
“The victims and survivors deserve to speak about the horrific abuse that took place and be heard in a public forum tasked with sufficient powers to get to the truth.
“This case has brought to the surface yet another paedophile priest who was never investigated or exposed by the church or the police.”