What can we learn from the Fr. Malachy Scandal?

Published: Feb 01, 2018

The media has been alive for the past few weeks in relation to the allegations of psychical and sexual against Fr Malachy Finnegan. Some allegations concern his time at St. Colman’s College Newry, while others relate to incidents in parishes in which Malachy Finnegan served. The scandal has led to the resignation of Bishop John McAreavey of the Dromore Diocese and has also prompted a number of high profile men to disclose that they were psychically abused by Malachy Finnegan while they were pupils at St. Colman’s. Some of these men have stated their belief in the truth of the allegations of sexual abuse made by other past pupils.

Malachy Finnegan is dead and will never be called to answer these allegations before a criminal court. However, a number of civil actions are in train. There has also been a call for a public inquiry into the matter, which One in Four would fully support.

Many people have grown weary of discussions of abuse within the Catholic Church and believe that this pertains to a dark and distant past. However, the reality is that last year Tusla received nearly 2,000 new allegations of child sexual abuse, most of which relate to abuse in the children’s families or communities. The men who have spoken publicly about their ordeal at the hands of Malachy Finnegan are unanimous in their belief that other adults in the diocese and in St. Colman’s were aware of the abuse but failed to take action to stop it. This shows how important it is that mandatory reporting of concerns about child abuse has been introduced into this country and obliges a range of professionals to notify Tusla of any information about children who may be at risk.

The other common factor in the Malachy Finnegan scandal is that the boys who were abused did not disclose the abuse while it was happening. They waited until they were grown up to tell their stories. At One in Four we meet so many men and women who are telling their stories for the first time. But just because their abuse happened years ago, this does not mean that the person who abused them no longer poses a risk to children. That is why it is so important the retrospective allegations also are notified to Tusla, and that Tusla is properly resourced to deal with this information.

Maeve Lewis
Executive Director

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