Priest hit by false claims of abuse takes leave of absence
Published 31/03/2014 | 02:30
A PRIEST forced to leave his post for almost four years after false abuse allegations were made against him has stepped down again after finding his return to work "very tough".
Donegal cleric Fr Eugene Boland (67) returned to his ministry in Co Tyrone two weeks ago, four years after the allegations were made against him – and more than 18 months after a jury took an hour to clear him on five charges.
St Mary's Church in Killyclogher, just outside Omagh in Co Tyrone, was packed with 900 parishioners as Fr Boland returned to ministry, just days after being cleared to do so by church authorities in Rome.
The priest wept as he hugged family and friends including his twin sister Aine and his brother, Fr Declan, a parish priest in Strabane.
However, most of the Mass was celebrated by Diocesan Administrator Fr Francis Bradley, with Fr Boland reluctantly reading the Gospel.
"It's just been tough," Fr Boland told the Irish Independent last night. "It's been very tough and I'm taking a leave of absence."
In a statement on his behalf, a spokesman for the Derry Diocese said the priest had engaged in therapy to help him cope with what he was experiencing and to prepare him properly for a return to public ministry.
But, the statement said, that on his return it had "all too quickly become clear to Fr Boland and diocesan authorities that he is not ready".
The statement added: "For that reason, Fr Boland now needs more time for help and guidance in this regard and has been granted leave of absence from ministry."
The statement said the news of Fr Boland's resignation was understandably "very confusing for many people".
However, it added: "It is hoped that in dealing with this carefully and promptly, the needs of both the Parish of Cappagh and Fr Boland will be addressed appropriately."
His twin sister Aine had spoken out in defence of her brother after the Mass when he returned. "This should never have happened," said the Dublin-based retired teacher.
"Eugene is a great brother and a great priest. He should never have been charged. Everyone knows that."
Fr Boland had been accused by a woman, who was then 15, of inappropriate touching and kissing of her in Derry in the 1990s. He was found not guilty.