Northern Ireland

Newry Cathedral mosaic to be removed after Malachy Finegan victims pressure

Newy Cathedral
Image caption A mosaic coat of arms for Bishop Francis Brooks has been in Newry Cathedral for nearly 30 years

A mosaic floor in Newry Cathedral paying tribute to a bishop criticised for his handling of paedophile priest Malachy Finegan is to be removed.

The coat of arms in the cathedral is dedicated to Bishop Francis Brooks, who died in September 2010.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, the head of Ireland's Catholic Church, said it will be taken away, the Irish News reported.

A lawyer acting for Malachy Finegan's victims said he made the commitment in a letter.

'Apologise unreservedly'

In a statement, the Diocese of Dromore said the decision to remove the mosaic had been taken after Archbishop Eamon Martin met with the victims.

"As part of ongoing specialist work to the floor area of the cathedral, I have directed that the coat of arms be removed," said Archbishop Martin.

"A victim of abuse has spoken to me personally of the pain that its presence causes him."

He said portraits of Bishop Francis Brooks on display in St Colman's College in Newry had previously been removed.

"On behalf of the Diocese of Dromore, I apologise unreservedly for the hurt and damage caused to victims by Fr Finegan, or any other priest or church representative," he said, adding he had communicated he is ready to meet with victims at any time.

Renovation work

Claire McKeegan, of Phoenix Law, said the mosaic would be removed as part of ongoing renovation work.

Ms McKeegan said the firm would be keeping pressure on the diocese to ensure it follows through on the commitment.

The installation has been in the church for almost thirty years.

Victims of Fr Finegan have criticised Bishop Brooks over his handling of abuse allegations.

In one instance of having abuse reported to him in 1994, Bishop Brooks sent Fr Finegan to England for treatment instead of contacting the police.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Fr Malachy Finegan was never questioned by police and died in 2002

A BBC Spotlight programme in 2018 included a number of allegations of abuse against Fr Finegan.

Following this, a dedicated PSNI team was set up to investigate.

'Steer away from outside counselling'

One of his victims, Sean Faloon, told BBC News NI that Fr Finnegan abused him for a total of eight years - starting in 1989.

"He told me if I ever came out about what was going on, or told anybody, it would ruin me for the rest of my life," said Mr Faloon.

Mr Faloon said he tried to bring the issue to Bishop Brooks.

"He suggested I steer away from outside counselling services as they could be steering me in the wrong direction, and could lead me in the wrong direction," claimed Mr Faloon.

As a result, he said that Bishop Brookes arranged for him to complete counselling sessions with a nun.

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