Parents reject Cardinal’s investigation and new claims of innocence by parish priest

Father Martin McVeigh.
Father Martin McVeigh.

PARENTS in Pomeroy have severely criticised a statement released by Father Martin McVeigh over his part in an indecent images row that has rocked the parish, as well as branding an official investigation by the Catholic Church as ‘inconclusive’.

Two weekends ago, Father McVeigh surprised congregations by celebrating Mass in both Pomeroy parish churches, the Sunday vigil Mass in Pomeroy and the Sunday Mass in Altmore.

At the end of each Mass, a statement from Cardinal Brady was read. According to a press release issued by the priest’s supporters, there was ‘a rapturous applause’ from the congregations after the priest formally declared his innocence at the two services.

However, following the statement, in which the cleric admitted that his part in the aftermath of the affair “complicated and confused” his parishioners, a group of parents said that they felt that the Catholic church’s investigation into the incident was “anything but conclusive”

They said five key questions have yet to be answered by the independent investigator tasked by Armagh Diocese to delve into what happened on May 26th.

They include:

- Why the Independent Investigator was told there was only three computers owned by the parish when indeed there were six?

- Why has Fr McVeigh never met with parents and apologised as he stated in one of his press interviews that he would be doing?

- Why did Fr McVeigh destroy with a hammer the one piece of crucial evidence that could have cleared his name?

- At the conclusion of the meeting on the 20th of April the parish was offered a public meeting this has since been withdrawn, why? A Parish consensus about this matter has not been sought.

The parents added that as far as they were concerned, the investigation into the incident was “inconclusive”.

The statement added: “Fr Mc Veigh stated in his press release to the Irish News on the 2nd of July that after some time I left the room after the images had been shown, we would like to make it quite clear that he pulled the memory stick out of the computer and quickly left the room.”

“This incident has caused tremendous anxiety to us all as we have been ‘inadvertently’ thrown into a situation that we would not have chosen to be involved with.

“However, we feel compelled to get answers for the good of our children and the wider community.”

Father McVeigh’s formal declaration of innocence to the congregations went as follows:

“Firstly I would like to acknowledge that the past three months have been a very difficult time for our parish, my family and for myself. I deeply regret again and again my failure to check, in advance, the presentation to the First Communion parents.

“I had absolutely no knowledge of any offending imagery on it. After it was inadvertently shown, I immediately removed it from the computer,

“Then - and after some time - I left the meeting.

“When I returned everything was continuing as normal and I talked to the parents as they left.

“My decision to destroy the offending imagery later that evening was in reaction to my shock, anger and disgust at the time and a poor attempt, on my part, to ensure that they would never be shown again and to rid myself, our Chapel and our parish of everything such pictures represented.”

He continued: “As I say, I was totally unaware of the offending material and I am still bewildered as to how it came to be attached to the presentation. I accept that my hasty action complicated the whole affair and confused many of you, my friends and parishioners, but I assure you, in good faith, that I am innocent of what some people have accused me of.

“Even though I, myself, am still horrified and heartbroken by what happened, I sincerely hope that these few words will serve as an explanation of sorts and put your minds and hearts at peace and we will leave the rest to God.

“As Cardinal Brady has stated, a further independent expert forensic examination of all parish computer equipment has established that none of the computer systems examined contained any inappropriate imagery.

“As you may know, the company who installed the CCTV system confirmed to the police that this specialised equipment had, in fact, been tampered with two weeks after the incident in the school and some back-up footage had been deleted - the PSNI investigation into both this and the subsequent theft of the parish laptop is still in progress.”

“The parish is now reviewing its policies and procedures in relation to all parish computers and related equipment to minimise the risk of this type of incident happening again.

“Fr. David Moore will take up the role of Administrator in my absence from Monday 2nd July and I invite you all to give him a warm welcome.”

The cleric added: “I am deeply humbled and overwhelmed by your prayers and support during this time and I am grateful to Cardinal Brady for allowing me to have time out to recover as this incident has taken its toll on my health.

“I look forward to seeing you again on completion of this leave and will remember you in my prayers -and hope that you will continue to remember me in yours.”

A spokesperson on behalf of members of Pomeroy Pastoral Council, Finance Committee and “others active in Parish ministries” also released a statement in support of the priest, who is now officially on leave from the parish.

It read: “We wish to add our voices to the many others in the parish that Fr. McVeigh is totally innocent of the accusations which were made against him and we wish him all the best on his leave. We trust that he will then return to the parish as our Parish Priest.

“We also must remember all the parents, teachers, children and others who have suffered because of this incident and we hope that they will be able to accept that Fr McVeigh was not responsible for the imagery and to find in their hearts the ability to forgive and to accept his innocence.

“During the next few months we hope that the Christian spirit of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation will permeate through the parish so that we learn to move on from this sad event and become a more united parish.

“Finally, we wish to record our thanks to Cardinal Brady and the enquiry team of the Diocese for their time and effort.”