Former Irish president Mary McAleese: Paedophile priest Malachy Finnegan abused my brother

The former Irish president Mary McAleese has opened up about how her younger brother was 'seriously, physically and sadistically abused' by a deceased Catholic priest who is at the centre of recent revelations in Northern Ireland.

Wikimedia CommonsMary McAleese

Speaking on the Sean O'Rourke show on RTE Radio One, McAleese said: 'My youngest brother, my baby brother, was seriously, physically and 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.'

McAleese has called for a full inquiry into Finnegan, who was president of St Colman's College in Newry between 1976 and 1987, and into those who surrounded him.

Some 12 allegations of abuse were made against Finnegan between 1994 and 2016, before and after the priest died in 2002.

McAleese said that her brother is now 50 and it was only months ago that the family found out about the years of abuse.

'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,' McAleese said.

'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.'

Earlier, Christian Today reported on how the incumbent parish priest in the Clonduff parish in the village of Hilltown, County Down has received threats telling him to 'get out of town' following publicity about Finnegan, who was a predecessor in the parish.

Fr Charles Byrne made the revelations to parishioners during mass yesterday.

Byrne, who reportedly received two rounds of applause when he spoke to the congregation, did not reveal the exact contents of the letter that he received but said they were 'abusive'.

Earlier this month, the bishop of Dromore, Dr John McAreavey, resigned over his handling of the scandal.

Byrne said that he had passed the letter on to his solicitor, who has reported the threats to the police.

The Belfast Telegraph reported that victims say the parochial house in Hilltown was used as a place for the abuse of children by Finnegan, who was at one time the parish priest, and that it is understood that clerics no longer use the property for overnight stays.

McAreavey officiated at Finnegan's requiem mass in early 2002, despite reportedly being aware of serious abuse allegations.

McAreavey, who was appointed bishop of the diocese of Dromore in 1999, said his predecessor's failure to make a public statement on Finnegan's abuse was a 'gross error' and admitted that when he took up the position he allowed those arrangements to stand.

There is no suggestion that Byrne – described as a 'decent, simple, country parish priest' by one source who knows him – is in any way involved in the scandal.

Christian Today has attempted to contact Fr Byrne.