Writing in today’s Irish News high profile solicitor Kevin Winters reveals how paedophile priest Malachy Finegan tried to groom him when he was a student at St Colman’s College in Newry. And in a weird twist, the priest ended up co-celebrant at his wedding. From the story:
I was married in a joint Presbyterian – Catholic wedding ceremony. The priest who was supposed to co-celebrate had to withdraw at late notice.
Back then it wasn’t easy to get a priest to co-celebrate a mixed marriage and with time running against me I turned to the priest I knew from my school days at St Colman’s to stand in.
The main part of the story explains how Finegan tried to groom Kevin Winters:
In my third year I was summoned to go to Finegan’s room during maths class. I hated maths and would have done anything to get out of it but had I known what was about to unfold I would have stayed put.
Finegan’s room was dark and smokey with a dim light on the table. His weapons of mass discipline were on display including leaded straps and canes.
I hadn’t realised it at the time but I was now about to experience “The Talk”. A sanitised explanation suggests it was some sort of weird discussion on ‘The facts of life’. I had heard rumours about it from other pupils. We didn’t know it then but the criminal act of ‘attempted grooming’ was about to take place.
He started his ‘talk’ by enquiring about the latest football results for my team and made a point of knowing which position I was playing in. The small talk about football masked a sense of foreboding. This wasn’t going to be a chat on the school’s chances of winning a cup.
He moved onto studies and I may have told him I was struggling with maths. Every second seemed an eternity as I sensed he was about to ask me something completely different. It was very uncomfortable. Then it came. A question about girls, I can’t remember what it was but it may have been along the lines about whether or not I had been with one.
I could have lied and said that I had been but I hadn’t. I didn’t know what type of answer to give. In that split-second I was trying to process which answer would be ‘right’. Saying yes might have led to some form of reprimand and saying no might have amounted to some form of declaration of ‘innocence’. I chose the innocent route.
Matters escalated when he probed with, “Tell me Master Winters, have you produced seed yet?” I hesitated with, “No Father, but it’s on the way.” That seemed to flummox him.
It knocked him off kilter a bit. I remember staring back intently trying to be tough but failing. My heart was pounding with tension. I can’t recall how the ‘meeting’ finished. All I know is that nothing physical happened and I left confused, stressed and anxious. Had I passed some sort of test? What sort of answers was I supposed to give? Ought I to have admitted to all sorts of ‘sins’ as if I had been to confession?
Not long afterwards the hair on the back of my head fell out with alopecia. Later college football team photos show that it grew back abundantly but for about six months it was gone. I developed a debilitating eczema disease as well. I blamed exam stress but now think it’s ‘the talk’ that caused it.
Kevin also alludes to the rumours that Finegan was a security force agent:
Finegan was operating his own industrial grooming system. For three decades he operated with impunity. It remains a scandal today that no-one in authority was able to step forward and say they knew what was happening or acknowledge having any suspicions.
Factor in then the allegation that Finegan might have been afforded some sort of protected status by the security forces and you have an added layer of insulation.
Former pupils recount such incidents as Finegan arriving on the football pitch with RUC officers or a British Army helicopter landing in school grounds as part of an arrest operation against suspect republican students or the discipline meted out to an entire class because they refused to give up the identity of a class mate who scribbled pro IRA slogans on the blackboard.
Finegan was a sadistic monster and it was utterly indefensible that so many people turned a blind eye to his activities over the years. Kevin Winters is now acting on behalf of many of Finegan’s victims. It is poetic justice that the boy they educated is now the very one who is attempting to expose the cover-up and make the perpetrators pay. I wish Kevin and all Finegan’s victims the best of luck in their fight for justice.
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