Cheers in church as priest cleared of misconduct
A PACKED church clapped and cheered on learning that their 67-year-old former parish priest was cleared to return to active ministry after a more than two-year absence from the altar.
Fr Oliver Brennan voluntarily stepped down in August 2010 from his post in the parish of Haggardstown and Blackrock, Co Louth.
He stepped aside after 11 years as he was the subject of a police investigation followed by a church inquiry over a child-safeguarding complaint, which he had denied.
Cardinal Sean Brady told the delighted congregation that Fr Brennan had been found to be innocent of any misconduct.
He confirmed that the church inquiry concluded that the allegation against Fr Brennan had not been "substantiated" and that the priest would soon resume ministry in a new parish.
Most of the congregation in Saint Oliver Plunkett Church in Blackrock rose from their seats and delivered a sustained ovation including cheers that lasted a number of minutes.
The Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland last October found the allegations against Father Brennan "totally lacking in credibility".
The church inquiry also later concluded that Fr Brennan "remains a priest of good standing and should be restored to active ministry forthwith".
Reacting to the outcome, Fr Brennan said: "My life has been on hold for two and a half years. I'm glad this ordeal has ended. I'm looking forward to re-starting my life in active ministry.
"It's been a very difficult and painful two years. It was particularly stressful that the church investigation took so long."
The exact nature of the complaint was not disclosed.
Shortly before withdrawing from ministry over the allegations, it was announced he was to transfer from Blackrock and Haggardstown. A large petition was gathered in support of allowing him stay.