Tuesday 21 November 2017

Abuse slur devastated me, says priest cleared of assaulting girl (14)

George Jackson and Trevor McBride

A Donegal priest said his life had been "devastated" by allegations of indecent assault against a 14-year-old girl, after being cleared of the charges yesterday.

Fr Eugene Boland, originally from Moville in Co Donegal, was found not guilty of five counts of indecent assault at Derry Crown Court.

He had denied claims that he inappropriately touched the teenage girl in the parochial house at St Joseph's parish in the Galliagh area of Derry between June 1990 and June 1992.

The girl wept in court as the verdicts were read out after almost four hours of jury deliberation over the course of two days.

Fr Boland said that the past three years had been a nightmare for him and he thanked the jurors for bringing that nightmare to an end.

Speaking through his solicitor Kevin McGuigan, he said: "An allegation first made two years ago has had a devastating impact on my life. The events of the last two years, culminating in the trial which ended today with my acquittal on all charges, have been traumatic.

"My reputation and character have been impugned by the allegation and by the widespread coverage it has received in the press and media."

Fr Boland said he was grateful that the suspicion and gossip which the allegation had provoked would now cease. He thanked his present and former parishioners for their prayers and support.

"They have been a constant support to me at this difficult time.

Cheered

"As a result of the allegation I have had to step back from my ministry as a priest. I have been a priest for 42 years and look forward to returning to my ministry as soon as possible with my reputation and good name restored," he said.

Fr Boland, of the parochial house, Killyclogher Road, Omagh, has been unable to practise his ministry since the allegations were first made in 2010.

When the jury foreman announced the not guilty verdicts, two women clapped and cheered in court. They were ordered by Judge Stephen Fowler to stand up.

"I am going to require you both to attend before me on July 23 in Belfast and you should bring with you legal representation to show cause as to why I should not (hold you in) contempt," he told them.

Earlier, Judge Fowler said he would "have no hesitation in putting anyone who disrupts the proceedings in the cells".

Judge Fowler then said: "You are free to step out of the dock, Fr Boland."

Irish Independent

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