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Monday 9 December 2019

Bishop of Derry in 'secret deal' on abuse case

The Catholic Church has faced further allegations of mishandling child sex abuse in Ireland after claims that a girl abused by a priest was sworn to secrecy in an out-of-court settlement as recently as 2000.

The victim went public with her claims that she was abused over a 10-year period by an unnamed priest, but said she was bound to secrecy in a legal deal which involved the Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty.

The fresh controversy comes after revelations that the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady remained silent for 35 years over two abuse cases involving a notorious paedophile priest.

The latest case involves a woman who said that a decade of abuse by a priest who had befriended her family began in 1979. She told her parents only on the day of her 18th birthday after becoming overwhelmed by events.

A spokesman for Bishop Hegarty said he was aware of the case, but would not be commenting until a detailed review of the file had been carried out.

He confirmed the bishop's office was alerted to the woman's claims on Wednesday afternoon by the Belfast Telegraph newspaper, but had not immediately reviewed the case because of the St Patrick's Day holiday.

An official responsible for overseeing the Church's handling of abuse claims said out-of-court settlements were not acceptable.

Ian Elliott, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, said: "If any situation comes to light involving a child, then the policy of the church, and the absolute commitment that is given, is that that information will be conveyed to the appropriate state authorities, the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) and the social services."

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