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Saturday 24 February 2018

Two priests step down following child safety allegations

Anita Guidera and Colin Gleeson

TWO priests have voluntarily stepped down from their duties over allegations relating to child safeguarding.

Fr Eugene Boland told tearful parishioners in Killyclogher, Co Tyrone, on Sunday he was taking administrative leave.

The priest, who was also in tears, told the shocked congregation he was facing a "personal crisis" but declined to reveal any further details.

In a statement, Bishop of Derry, Dr Seamus Hegarty, confirmed a priest had "requested and been granted administrative leave while an issue of safeguarding is being processed".

The bishop said children's safety and welfare was of paramount concern to the diocese.

"It would be inappropriate to comment any further. While this process is ongoing, the priest is entitled to the benefit of a presumption of innocence," he said.

The 63-year-old priest, a native of Moville, Co Donegal, was ordained in St Pius X Church, Moville, in 1973.

He previously worked as administrator in Galliagh in Derry, and served in parishes in Creggan and on the Waterside in the city.

He is chaplain to two hospitals in Omagh, Co Tyrone, and the Community Hospital in Carndonagh, Co Donegal.

He has been in Killyclogher -- just outside Omagh -- since January 2004 and led the drive for the restoration of St Mary's Church, which reopened in March last year in the village.

Last night, parishioners were rallying in support of the popular priest.

Independent Omagh town councillor Patrick McGowan said while the investigation was at an early stage, he believed the priest would be exonerated.

"It is difficult to understand and believe because we had such a fine priest. There is no doubt in my mind that after this is investigated, we will have Fr Boland back in our parish," he added.

Meanwhile, the church confirmed another priest has voluntarily stepped down following a complaint relating to child safeguarding.

Fr Oliver Brennan, the parish priest in Blackrock, Co Louth, took the decision in order to allow the investigation to proceed efficiently.

The priest was summoned to a meeting with Cardinal Brady in Ara Coeli, Armagh, just a few weeks ago in order to discuss a move to a different parish.


Fr Brennan, who originally comes from Edmondstown, Ardee, Co Louth, has been based in Blackrock for over 10 years and is said to be hugely popular with his parishioners -- 900 of whom recently signed a petition to keep him based there.

A statement from the Catholic Church last night said that Bishop Gerard Clifford spoke to the congregation about a decision made concerning their local pastor.

Bishop Clifford said Cardinal Sean Brady -- who is away -- had instructed him to make a statement outlining how the archdiocese had been made aware of a complaint relating to child safeguarding.

The statement said the priest involved had agreed to step down to allow the investigation to be conducted efficiently. It said the allegation had been referred to the civil authorities, and the diocese and priest were prepared to fully cooperate with any investigation.

The statement stressed the priest is entitled to the benefit of the presumption of innocence and it asked for prayers for those involved in the matter.

Irish Independent

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