COALISLAND priest Father Joe Quinn has broken his silence to reveal his seven year fight to clear his name.
Father Quinn was suspended from his religious duties in 2003 after accusations that he sexually abused two schoolgirls, who at the time of the alleged offences were over 16.
After one case was brought to Court, Rev Fr Quinn, former curate in Dungannon Parish, was cleared of any wrong-doing.
A canonical enquiry has yet to take place to decide if Fr Quinn is fit to resume his priestly duties.
Last weekend, a Sunday tabloid newspaper heaped further pressure on the embattled priest after it was claimed that Father Quinn had been investigated by police for allegedly fathering the child of a 16-year-old in the 1990s.
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He understood my plight and offered to pay the money to clear the woman’s legal bills.
“This freed the two of us to have our stories heard at a canonical enquiry which would have decided if I had a case to answer.
“I was relieved that the civil case was dropped because I did not want my family to undergo the ordeal of my name being dragged through the courts once again.
“My parents had recently lost a son and would not have been fit to bear another Court case along with the media scrutiny.
“I also want to emphasise that I lifted the confidentiality clause to give the woman the chance to tell her side of the story to the enquiry panel, which she has already done so.
“I was keen to proceed with the enquiry as this was the only way I could finally clear my name of all the rumour and false accusations, and have myself reinstated as a priest.”
He said he was stunned by the woman airing her story on the Stephen Nolan show on Friday morning and the latest accusations which have surfaced in a Sunday newspaper, which he totally refutes.
He said it was like having his world turned upside down, once again.
“I feel that all the good work I have done in the parish has been destroyed in the space of one weekend.
“Even though my family is hurt and devastated, they are supporting me.
“I feel that I have become a victim of the recent stories affecting the Catholic Church and the media’s appetite for stories about the Cardinal’s role in covering up such scandals.”
Fr Quinn said that he had instructed his solicitor to lodge a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission over the story published in the Sunday newspaper, and that he was considering further legal action.
“The allegation was totally unfounded. It has broke my heart.
“In spite of all this, I am still hopeful that the canonical enquiry will go ahead and I can return to being a priest. I have to trust in the system and hope that justice will be done.”