Tyrone PP takes leave amid powerpoint controversyTuesday, May 1st, 2012
The parish priest of Pomeroy in County Tyrone, Fr Martin McVeigh, has apologised and is to take temporary leave from his parish over an incident in which he inadvertently showed indecent images during a presentation at a primary school.
For the past month, the controversy has been dogging Fr McVeigh, who insists he has no knowledge of how the sixteen pornographic images of men got onto the memory stick from which he was showing his PowerPoint presentation about First Communion. He projected the images onto a screen during a meeting for parents in St Mary’s School Pomeroy on March 26.
In a statement read out to parishioners at the weekend, Fr McVeigh said he had asked his bishop, Cardinal Seán Brady, to be allowed leave the parish temporarily on sabbatical leave.
Describing the past month as, "the most difficult of my life,” he said he apologised unreservedly, “for the hurt caused,” but reiterated that he was, “not responsible for the presence of the offending images,” and appealed to his parishioners that they accept that he is innocent.
"I deeply regret my failure to check, in advance, my presentation," he said, which he accepted was, “very serious in nature," and had, "caused much anxiety and distress.”
Fr McVeigh pointed out that he removed the memory stick from the laptop immediately when the blunder became apparent and said, "in my shock and upset and in my concern to ensure that the images would never be shown again, I destroyed it later that evening." He added, “The memory of this awful episode will remain with me for the rest of my life."
Cardinal Brady said he had agreed that Fr McVeigh could take time out on the understanding that he will return. The controversy was further complicated by the fact that a laptop was stolen from the sacristy of Pomeroy church within days of the incident.
The PSNI was informed of the incident at the school but has not conducted any examination of computer equipment, as the indication is that no crime was committed. The PSNI is however, investigating the break-in at the church in which the laptop was stolen.
And part of its own investigation, the church had computers used by Fr McVeigh forensically examined by an independent technical expert and no inappropriate imagery was found.
Cardinal Brady said that, arising from the affair, the diocese would now, “work to ensure that procedures and policies were put in place for the proper monitoring and use of computers in parishes.”
Representatives of the diocese met parents in Pomeroy a week ago and initially released a statement that Fr McVeigh had been, “exonerated,” but this was subsequently withdrawn after some of the parents objected and a subsequent statement issued saying the outcome of the meeting was “inconclusive.”
A further meeting was planned but cancelled and the Archdiocese declined all further comment until last weekend’s developments. It emerged meanwhile, however, that Fr McVeigh would not be officiating at the annual First Communion Mass but that another priest, Fr Patrick McGuckin, would step in for the event.
Parishioners were divided in their reaction to the whole sage, with some calling for Fr McVeigh to be suspended and another backing him. A spokesperson for the second group listed his many achievements in Pomeroy, including the building of an Adoration chapel, the refurbishment of the main parish chapel and improvements to the grounds.
“Fr McVeigh has been in the parish for 14 years and has been always available to many families during times of sickness or bereavement, he helped many through times of difficulty and sadness and parishioners have expressed gratitude for the help he gave them over these times,” the spokesperson said.
“The majority of parishioners within Pomeroy parish hope that Fr. McVeigh will remain as their parish priest and that the people who are against him will learn to respect him and put the past behind them.”
Fr McVeigh, a native of Dungannon, was ordained in 1976 and served in Termonfeckin and Drogheda, Co. Louth and Westminster in London before being assigned to Pomeroy.
by Fintan Deere