Priest accused of sex abuse in UK also served in Cork

A deceased priest who served for many years in Cork has been named as an alleged child sex abuser in the UK.

It is alleged that Fr Thomas Heley abused young boys in the Catholic parish of Ss Alban and Stephen in Hertfordshire in the late 1970s. The Irish Examiner has since been made aware of allegations of abuse against Fr Heley while he was in Cork, made not long before he moved to the UK.

A member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Fr Heley worked in Cork through the 50s and into the 70s. Last weekend the parish in St Albans published a notice on its website which stated: “we have received historic allegations, dating back several decades, that one of our priests based here in St Alban sexually abused some young people”. The notice did not name the priest but said the person against whom the allegations had been made had died several years ago and both the Hertfordshire Police and the Archdiocese had been informed of the allegations.

On Thursday the Herts Advertiser newspaper named Fr Thomas Heley as the alleged abuser, quoting one unnamed victim: “I feel I have not been able to lead the life that I could have had, which deeply saddens me and my family”. The mother of another victim was also quoted.

A Hertfordshire Police spokesperson confirmed it had received a third party report of alleged abuse. However, it said that since the suspect was deceased “there are no lawful lines of enquiry that we can pursue”.

In response to detailed questions from this paper, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart confirmed that it had received allegations relating to Fr Heley’s time in the UK but did not respond to questions as to whether any allegations had ever been lodged with respect to his time serving in Cork.

The Irish Examiner has since been made aware of at least one case involving two boys and in which it is claimed the MSC was contacted about the allegations at the time by a parent.

Referring to the St Alban’s allegations an MSC spokesperson said.

“We informed the people in St Alban’s Parish of these allegations last weekend and asked anyone who has been abused to come forward and to report to the police and other relevant authorities.”

It said it had reported all allegations to the British and Irish police as well as the HSE/TUSLA and the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

A newspaper archive search shows Fr Heley MSC took services in Cork in 1953 through to 1968, as well as leading retreats and conducting a sermon in October 1952 for three departing missionaries. The MSC declined to offer any additional information as to where he served.

The Herts Advertiser said Fr Heley died in 1986.

One unnamed victim is quoted in the paper: “It’s only recently I have felt able to disclose this abuse and I am currently struggling to process the emotions that this has brought to the forefront on my mind.”


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