AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has called for the Northern Ireland Executive to set up a public inquiry into clerical child sex abuse following the announcement by the Catholic diocese of Dromore of a redress fund for victims.

The announcement comes in the wake of significant financial settlements reached in cases of alleged abuse by Fr Malachy Finnegan, former president of St Colman’s College in Newry.

Fr Finnegan, who died in 2002, has been accused of sex abuse by multiple people. Victims claim that police in Newry were alerted to the allegations in 1996 but failed to interview the priest. Amnesty maintains that the Fr Finnegan abuse scandal is the latest in a litany of such cases, and has repeated its call for a full public inquiry, first made by the human rights organisation in 2012.

Reviews by the Catholic Church’s own safeguarding body have revealed that more than 100 priests in Northern Ireland are alleged to have been responsible for child abuse since the mid-1970s.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said: “Clerical abuse was not limited to one priest, one parish, one diocese or even one denomination in Northern Ireland. Redress is just one component of the justice to which victims are entitled and cannot be a substitute for an independent investigation.

“That is why Amnesty is again calling for the Executive to establish a public inquiry into the scale and circumstances of clerical child abuse in Northern Ireland, not restricted to one diocese or one Church. We know the problem goes much wider.

“The Father Finnegan scandal is just one example of how paedophile clerics were facilitated by church authorities in continuing their vile abuse. It is just one example of how church authorities prioritised the protection of reputation over the protection of children and how the state authorities failed to investigate and intervene to end the abuse.”

* Source: Amnesty International