Monday 24 June 2019

Mary McAleese: My youngest brother was 'physically, sadistically abused' by paedophile priest

  • Former president calls for full independent inquiry into accusations against the late priest and those who held senior positions within the school and diocese at the time
  • Many survivors of abuse are suffering "a mountain of hurt' - McAleese
  • 'My youngest brother, my baby brother, was seriously, physically, sadistically abused by Malachy Finnegan' - McAleese
Former President Mary McAleese
Former President Mary McAleese

Kathy Armstrong and Michael Donnelly

Former President Mary McAleese has revealed her younger brother was "sadistically" abused as a child by Father Malachy Finnegan.

Ms McAleese said that her youngest brother was abused by paedophile priest Fr Finnegan, who was the president of St Colman's College in Newry at the time.

She has now called for a full inquiry into accusations against the late priest and those who held senior positions within the school and diocese at the time.

Speaking on The Sean O'Rourke Show on RTE Radio One, Ms McAleese said: "My youngest brother, my baby brother, was seriously, physically sadistically abused by Malachy Finnegan.

"My mother, almost 90 years of age, had to discover that from an article in the Belfast Telegraph three weeks ago.

"Four of my five brothers went to that school.

Bishop John McAreavey said he ‘wrestled’ with the decision
Bishop John McAreavey said he ‘wrestled’ with the decision

"My youngest brother is so incredibly loved and adored by all of us and to think that he suffered and didn't think he could tell anyone."

She said that her brother is going to turn 50 next year and they only found out about the ordeal he suffered throughout his childhood in recent months.

Ms McAleese said: "It went on all of the years he was there, it was known and as he pointed out that so many people in the school would have had to have known, who could have done something about it.

"We know the very first complaints about Malachy Finnegan go back to the 1970s, not the 1990s, which means there is a body information that was available to people who could have done something.

"What frightens me is that we only find this out all these decades later, I'm the oldest of nine children and I always said my brothers could tell me anything but he didn't because the culture of silence was so oppressive and these children were so frightened.

"There are huge questions to be answered by all the people who were involved at a senior level in that school and in the diocese about what they knew and when they knew it.

"It shouts for an inquiry really and I think an independent inquiry is warranted."

She said that there are many survivors of abuse suffering "a mountain of hurt."

Ms McAleese said: "He was 49, he was seven when I got married and left home.

"He's not the only one, there are legions of silent sufferers who carry it through their lives and it remains unresolved and causes so much suffering.

"The sad thing is that here we are, 20 years after the new guidelines were introduced, all of the secrets were supposed to be out but here we are, there's a mountain of them and a mountain of hurt."


The Bishop of Dromore Dr John McAreavey hit headlines earlier this month after he resigned following the controversy over his officiating at Fr Finnegan's funeral.

The bishop stepped down on March 1st after weeks of anger when it emerged that he had said Requiem Mass for Fr Finnegan.

In a statement released by his solicitors Arthur J Downey, the bishop said his resignation would take "immediate effect".

In the simple two-line statement, Dr McAreavey said: "Following media reports which have disturbed and upset many people in the diocese and further afield, I have decided to resign with immediate effect.

"I shall make further comment in due course."

The former bishop had met parents from a Co Down primary school in February, who, along with families from other schools, said they did not want him to officiate at their children's Confirmation.

Even before the parents of children from St Patrick's Primary School, Hilltown, Carrick Primary School, Burren and St Patrick's Mayobridge voiced their concerns, Bishop McAreavey admitted making "an error of judgment" by officiating at the 2002 funeral of the paedophile teacher.

Dr McAreavey described the crimes of Finnegan as "abhorrent, inexcusable and indefensible".

The bishop, who has also spoken to a victim of Fr Finnegan, said that his decision - made when he was a priest - to say the Mass "was the wrong one".

The bishop was later defended by his nephew, John McAreavey, the widower of Michaela Harte.

John McAreavey denounced what he called callous and vindictive coverage of the Bishop's resignation.

Allegations about the disgraced teacher and cleric Dr Malachy Finnegan were highlighted in a recent BBC 'Spotlight' programme, although the first allegation against him came to light in 1994.

Fr Malachy Finnegan died in 2002 and has been accused of sexual abuse by 12 people.

Fr Finnegan served at St Colman's from 1967 to 1971 and was a teacher from 1973 to 1976.

He was president of the college from 1976 to 1987.

Between 1994 and 2016, the 12 allegations of abuse were made against him.

Meanwhile, the former president also told RTE Radio One's Sean O'Rourke that she has "received neither an acknowledgement of my letter nor a reply" to a letter she wrote to Pope Francis after the Vatican declined to approve her taking part in a conference in Rome.

She said; "I accept the authority of the Pope, of course I do. But do I accept absolutely everything the Pope says? I don't have to. No."

On the 8th Amendment, Ms McAleese said she "has a lot of reading to do", having been out of the country last week.

She also said that she will not play any part in any campaigning. She said that information given by obstetricians and gynecologists raised "profound questions" for someone like her, being 'pro-life'.

She added; "I'm comfortably a member of the Catholic Church, comfortably uncomfortable sometimes. It's my home, my spiritual home... I love my church'."

The National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children has said they are available to provide support to survivors of child abuse.

A spokeswoman said in a statement released to “Many people who have suffered abuse as a child do not reveal their ordeal at the time. Physical or sexual abuse suffered in childhood can have catastrophic and lifelong effects so it is important that victims are able to access support when they are eventually able to disclose what happened to them.

“Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility and depends on people in positions of trust over them – as well as parents, carers and the public – recognising abuse and acting to prevent it.

“The NSPCC’s helplines provide vital support for anyone wishing to seek advice about child safety and to report any concerns.”

Anyone who has been affected by abuse or is worried about a child can contact the NSPCC’s helpline 24/7 on 0808 800 5000 or text 88858

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