Parish priest involved in Donagh abuse case

Michael Connolly was abused by the McDermott brothers and a parish priest

A parish priest was involved in the sexual abuse of some children in Donagh in the 1970s and 1980s, the BBC can reveal.

Canon Peter Duffy, from County Monaghan, was an uncle of former Bishop of Clogher Joseph Duffy.

He died in 1994 and is buried in Donagh. The police have investigated cases involving three victims.

One of them was Michael Connolly who was also abused by the McDermott brothers.

He said: "The priest was just as bad and he did exactly the same as what the McDermotts had done.

"I just couldn't believe it, I thought I'd found refuge from Donagh, I thought I'd found some place where I was safe but I wasn't, I wasn't even safe with the priest."

Serving nine years

Mr Connolly was speaking after the trial of Fermanagh man John McDermott, who, together with his brothers, unleashed a "tidal wave of sexual assaults".

McDermott, 63, from Moorlough Road in Donagh, was jailed for a fourth time in as many years. He is already serving over nine years for the abuse of seven children over a 35-year period.

Last month, he pleaded guilty to indecent assault and gross indecency of an eighth victim. He was given a sentence of three months on each count, to run concurrently to each other, but consecutive to his existing sentence.

Michael Connolly wrote to Bishop Joseph Duffy about his uncle's abuse five years ago.

In a statement to the BBC, Bishop Duffy, who has now retired, said his initial reaction to this letter was one of deep shock as this was the first time that he was made aware of abuse by Father Duffy.

'Apologised'

He said Michael Connolly's story was "heart-breaking and profoundly moving", describing it "a stolen childhood and the painful legacy of abuse which he lives daily".

Bishop Duffy added: "When I received this letter I contacted the survivor and apologised for the abuse by the priest.

"I offered to meet him, if he so wished, at a venue of his choice and at his convenience. He accepted and we met in person.

"He bravely and generously shared his experience with me. His was a very difficult story to tell and affected me deeply. Subsequently counselling and other support was arranged for him.

"Since then two other victims have reported abuse by Father Duffy. All these cases have been investigated by the PSNI.

"Sexual abuse is a heinous crime, a serious sin, and must always be condemned. When the perpetrator of abuse is a priest a sacred trust has been irrevocably betrayed.

"As Father Duffy was an uncle of mine I feel an even greater sense of shame and personal connection with this very sad story."

The Diocese of Clogher has paid damages to Michael Connolly and has agreed a settlement with two other victims.

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