Priest stands down after 'allegation'

A parish priest in Sligo has stood aside from active duties following allegations being made against him, it emerged today.

Fr Niall Ahern, parish priest of Strandhill/Ransboro, insisted the claims were unfounded but that he was standing down in line with church policy.

In a statement issued to parishioners at Mass today, Fr Ahern said: “Some days ago an allegation was made against me. There is no foundation whatsoever in this.”

The priest went on: “Nevertheless, while the truth is being independently and categorically determined I have decided to stand aside from ministry.

“It is tempting to feel some degree of injustice that anyone – priest or lay - should effectively have to prove his innocence before he can resume normal life. We should not feel this.”

Dr Christopher Jones, Bishop of Elphin, attended Mass today in Strandhill/Ransboro where the announcement was made.

The Diocese refused to comment on the nature of the allegation, but it is the latest controversy to hit the church since the publication of the Ferns Report last autumn which detailed shocking levels of child sex abuse involving dozens of priests over four decades.

The report concluded that Bishops had failed to adequately and appropriately investigate claims of abuse against clerics in the Wexford diocese.

Addressing the congregation, Fr Ahern also said: “The truth is that our church was in the past too slow to take action on such matters. A part of the price we pay for this involves the approach that I am now taking and which is the recent practice of the church.

“I know you will understand that I have no more to add at this time except to ask for your prayers.”

Fr Ahern is the second priest in the last two weeks to stand down from his ministry following an allegation.

On January 22, Bishop of Galway, Dr Martin Drennan, visited an unnamed parish in his diocese to announce that a local priest was under investigation. No details of the allegation or the priest involved were released on that occasion.

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