by Roisin McManus

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One of the priests at the centre of the horrific child sex abuse detailed in the Ferns Report served in a parish in West Belfast.

Fr James Doyle served in St Agnes’ Parish in Andersonstown from 1974 to 1979.

St Agnes’ was Fr Doyle’s first parish and contemporary Andersonstown News reports say that he worked closely with young people during his time here.

Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor Donal McKeown, speaking to the Andersonstown News last night, confirmed that Fr Doyle had served in West Belfast. He said that no complaints had been made against the cleric during his time in West Belfast.

The Irish government inquiry into child sex abuse in the County Wexford Diocese of Ferns uncovered over 100 allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
Allegations were made against 21 priests working in Ferns between 1966 and 2002, including Father Doyle.

The damning report was highly critical of bishops in their failure to take measures to protect children and said that Garda investigations into the claims of abuse were insufficient. The Ferns Report is the culmination of a two-year investigation into the allegations. The 271-page document says that priests who were accused of abusing children were transferred to a different post or diocese, but were later returned to their former positions.

Fr Doyle began abusing in St Peter’s Seminary in County Wexford. A staff member reported that the priest had attempted to molest a student some time between 1972 and 1973. The college dismissed the report. The priest’s ordination was postponed but took place a year later.

After serving in St Agnes’, Fr Doyle returned to his native Wexford where a short time later a priest was told by an altar boy that he had been molested by Fr Doyle. A further three instances of abuse are detailed in the Ferns Report. The cleric was sent to Dublin for psychiatric assessment which concluded that Fr Doyle should not work with young people, however the assessment was not heeded.

In the early 1990s a 12-year-old boy was assaulted by Fr Doyle and the matter was reported to the Garda Siochana. The priest was convicted of indecent assault on the boy and has since been defrocked.

Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor Donal McKeown said that child sex abuse has to be condemned and deplored.

“I understand that local people may have fears but I can say that during his time at St Agnes’ no complaints were made against James Doyle,” said Bishop McKeown.

The Bishop said that the Ferns Report revealed that trust had been abused.
“No matter how few or how many allegations are made, that is one too many.

“It is horrific to discover what happened and to discover that it was allowed to continue. Clearly people’s lives have been ruined and child sex abuse leaves horrific scars and the effects are very deep. We apologise of course for this abuse and hope that the victims will get the help and support they need.”

Journalist:: Roisin McManus