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victim-centred Diocese of Dromore announces redress scheme for victims and survivors of 'abhorrent' abuse

'The Diocese is committed to doing what it can to help bring healing to the survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and to all those affected by these egregious crimes'

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Father Malachy Finegan

Father Malachy Finegan

Father Malachy Finegan

A Catholic diocese has apologised "unreservedly" to victims and survivors of abuse, stating it finds such behaviour "abhorrent, inexcusable and indefensible".

It comes as the Diocese of Dromore in Co Down announced that a redress scheme for victims of sexual abuse by priests acting under its authority will be set up.

In a statement, the diocese said Archbishop Eamon Martin has met with a number of survivors, examined the various existing legal claims against the diocese, and wants to facilitate a resolution process that provides financial and other supports "without undue further delay".

"The Diocese is committed to doing what it can to help bring healing to the survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and to all those affected by these egregious crimes," the statement reads.

"This Redress Scheme will be open to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse suffered at the hands of representatives of the Diocese. It endeavours to ensure a process which is victim-centred and aims to provide victims with recognition and reasonable compensation without the need for lengthy investigation and litigation.

"The Diocese understands that redress may take varying forms. As well as enabling the provision of financial redress, the Scheme includes the possibility of a personal apology on behalf of the Diocese and other ways of providing pastoral support.

The Diocese will also support the provision of counselling via the Towards Healing service.

"The Diocese is willing to commit whatever resources it has available for the purpose of redress to this scheme, even if that should exhaust those resources."

The scheme will address applications where there are allegations of sexual abuse, including grooming, which may or may not have been carried out along with physical and/or emotional abuse, where the applicant was under the age of 18.

Applications will be assessed by an independent panel, appointed via a third-party organisation, the diocese said, and applications will be assessed taking into account all available information, with the panel making its decisions on the balance of probabilities and on a majority basis.

"The process will fall outside the civil litigation process and be comparable to a mediation. It is anticipated that the process will be informal in nature but is intended to be binding on the parties should a resolution be agreed," the diocese said.

"Archbishop Eamon Martin is also committed to continuing his ongoing pastoral outreach to survivors, making himself available to meet with those victims who wish to share their story with him and to consider with him other ways in which their pain can be acknowledged and by which their healing can be assisted."

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Two weeks ago, a lawyer for a man who claims a paedophile priest in the Diocese, the late Fr Malachy Finegan, subjected him to sexual and physical abuse at a Co Down school announced he is to receive a "five-figure" pay out.

No admission of liability was made in proceedings brought against the Trustees and Board of Governors at St Colman's College in Newry and the Diocese of Dromore.

The man, who is now in his mid-sixties, sued over allegations he was abused while boarding at St Colman's in the late 1960s when he was just 11 years old.

The plaintiff's solicitor, said: "This latest financial settlement highlights again the trail of emotional destruction left by Malachy Finegan."

Fr Finegan taught and worked at St Colman's College from 1967 to 1987, and spent the last decade as the school's president. He died in 2002 and was accused of a long campaign of child sexual abuse, however he was never prosecuted - or questioned by police - about the claims made against him.

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