Northern Ireland

Father Peter Donnelly denies abuse allegations

Belfast Crown Court
Image caption The trial is taking place at Belfast Crown Court

A Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a young girl almost 30 years ago has been giving evidence for a second day at his trial in Belfast.

Father Peter Donnelly said although there may have been opportunities to abuse the girl: "I don't go around seeing opportunities to misbehave.

"That's not the way I have lived my life. I go around trying to be a witness for Christ," the priest said.

He denies six counts of indecent assault and one of gross indecency.

Fr Donnelly, who is from Castlewellan, was ordained as a priest in 1967.

He was curate at St Matthew's Church in east Belfast at the time the offences were alleged to have occurred between 31 July 1983 and 1 August 1987.

His alleged victim was aged between 10 and 14 years old at the time.

On Friday Fr Donnelly accepted there would have been opportunities to abuse the girl in the "big barrack" of a Parochial House of the church.

However under cross-examination by prosecuting lawyer Kate McKay he said: "Just because the opportunities were there doesn't mean that I took those opportunities".

Mrs McKay put each of the victim's allegations to the priest but to each he told the lawyer either "I deny that" or "I totally deny that".

"All I can do is deny that happened because it didn't happen with me," Father Donnelly said.

"Are you suggesting this happened with someone else, some other priest or other man," the lawyer asked.

He replied: "I didn't witness anything like that therefore I can't say it."

During her evidence to the court, the alleged victim described how she was a "well developed girl" for her age and on Friday, Mrs McKay asked the priest if that was the reason "you picked her out from the other children?"

Father Donnelly claimed however that he did not remember his alleged victim.

"I don't shy away from the fact that there are inconsistencies (in her evidence) about the layout of the house," Mrs McKay put to the defendant, "but does it matter one iota where a door was or if it was spring or summer time, the fact is it happened."

Father Donnelly maintained his denials, telling the lawyer: "It didn't happen. It didn't happen with me."

The trial continues.

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