| 6.3°C Dublin

Priest back after false abuse claim

A priest wrongly accused of sexual abuse has returned to full ministry.

Father Sean Cahill voluntarily stood down from duties at St Malachy's church in Castlewellan after the claim was made against him in early 2010.

In August last year it emerged that no charges would be brought against the priest.

Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor welcomed Fr Cahill back to ministry at St Malachy's at this morning's mass.

Bishop Treanor said the unfounded allegation had had a devastating impact but stressed the priest returned with his character unblemished.

"After thorough and lengthy investigation by the police and the Public Prosecution Service, an investigation with which Fr Sean Cahill and the Diocese co-operated fully, the PSNI, the Public Prosecution Service, the Social Services and I, as Bishop of this Diocese, are satisfied that there was no basis for the allegation," he told the congregation.

"The preliminary canonical enquiry was completed and Fr Sean Cahill has resumed priestly ministry, the same innocent priest he was when he voluntarily stepped aside in February 2010.

"Unfounded allegations have a devastating effect on any person, but the allegations levelled against Fr Sean Cahill, who has dedicated his life to selfless service of Church and community, damage not only his life but also his family, his parish, his diocese, the Church and wider society. In addition, such baseless allegations do colossal damage to the cause of the genuine survivors of abuse, including clerical abuse.

"Today however is a day for joy at the start of a new year. Fr Sean Cahill now resumes ministry in the Diocese of Down and Connor in the knowledge that his suffering over the past two years, borne with such personal courage and strength, supported by his family, by friends and by you, his parishioners, is at an end."

Bishop Treanor thanked the congregation for the support they had given the priest during the past two years.

Press Association