THE former Bishop of Dromore has said he supports victims of Fr Malachy Finnegan in their calls for an independent public inquiry to be set up.
In a statement from his solicitor, Banbridge-based Conleth Downey, John McAreavey said he “supports the calls from victims and others for Secretary of State Karen Bradley to set up an independent public inquiry into alleged clerical child abuse, perpetrated by Malachy Finnegan”.
Fr Finnegan was a former teacher at St Colman’s College in Newry from 1967 to 1976 and was later president from 1976 to 1987.
He was moved to Clonduff Parish in January 1988 after he was removed from the Newry school.
Several complaints were made against Fr Finnegan, including by Hilltown man Sean Faloon, who was a 10-year-old altar boy when he was first abused by the disgraced priest.
In the months after the revelations, parishioners in Hilltown said they would no longer go into its parochial house, where some of the abuse took place.
Bishop McAreavey officiated at Fr Finnegan’s funeral in 2002, something which he later admitted was an “error”.
In 2018 he said that during an independent audit in 2011 he had “specifically” asked the National Board for Safeguarding Children to examine cases involving Fr Finnegan.
He also described the abuse as “abhorrent, inexcusable and indefensible”.
In March 2018 Bishop McAreavey resigned from his role as Bishop of Dromore
He said he acknowledged that reports he had officiated Fr Finnegan’s funeral had “disturbed and upset many people in the diocese and further afield”.
In March last year former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese led calls for an independent inquiry in the church's handling of the allegations of abuse.
She also revealed that her 49-year-old brother had been “seriously, physically, sadistically” abused by Fr Finnegan while he was a pupil at St Colman’s.
Dr McAleese said there were “huge questions” to be answered “by all the people who were involved at a senior level in that school and in the diocese” about what they knew and “when they knew it”.