Fr Boland cleared of Derry assault allegation after two yearsFriday, June 29th, 2012
A Derry diocese parish priest, who has been suspended from ministry since 2010, has been confirmed as not guilty of charges of indecent assault that had been made against him.
Killyclogher PP Fr Eugene Boland (pictured), who is 66, was cleared of five charges by a majority verdict of a jury at Derry Crown Court, after an eight-day trial. He had faced charges of indecent assault on a 14-year old girl that were alleged to have taken place in the parochial house of St Joseph’s Church at Galliagh in Derry, between 1990 and 1992.
Fr Boland, who stepped down from ministry in 2010 when the charges were made, said, through his solicitor Kevin McGuigan, that he now hopes to return to his duties in Killyclogher with his, “reputation and good name restored.” The statement said that as a result of the allegation, he had to step back from my ministry and the events of the past two years, culminating in the trial, had been, “traumatic.”
“I have been a priest for 42 years and look forward to returning to my ministry as soon as possible with my reputation and good name restored.” My reputation and character have been impugned by the allegation and the widespread coverage it received in the press and media.” Fr Boland’s statement continued.
Fr Boland, who was born in Moville in Co. Donegal, thanked the jury for, “bringing this nightmare to end,” and said he was grateful, “the suspicion and gossip which this allegation has provoked will now cease.”
He also thanked his family, friends, other priests and clergy from other denominations who attended the trial. “The parishioners of my current parish and from previous parishes have been a constant support to me at this difficult time.” he remarked.
Two women who clapped and cheered after the verdict were ordered to appear before a Belfast court next month.
Fr Boland’s brother, Fr Declan Boland, who is based in Strabane, Co. Tyrone, described the outcome of the case as, “a good day for priests.” He said he was “thrilled” and paid tribute to everyone who had stood by his family.
The offences with which his brother was charged were claimed to have occurred in a parochial house where the complainant did voluntary work, and were reported to police in April 2010.
Fr Boland was said to have rubbed the girl's waist under her clothes, kissed her on the lips and rubbed her leg with his foot under a dining room table. The prosecution barrister said the complainant confronted Fr Boland in the confessional and she alleged he told her, "despite being a priest we are still men underneath and we still think like men.”
The complainant, now aged in her 30s, was working on a voluntary basis in the evenings answering the telephone and door in the Parochial House.
Witnesses called by the defence including two women who had also worked in the parochial house 20 years ago when they were teenagers and both said Fr Boland had, “never behaved inappropriately.” And an aunt of the complainant also said she had never heard of any rumour or allegation regarding Fr Boland.
Fr Eddie McGuinness told the court he had worked on the Youth Council with Fr Boland for over 13 years and they had dealt with thousands of young people, and in that time no one had ever raised any issues regarding Fr Boland dealing inappropriately with young people.
Monsignor Eamon Martin, administrator of the diocese of Derry, said that Fr Boland had always denied the charges and at the start of the investigation, the diocese emphasised his entitlement to a presumption of innocence.
“Fr. Boland’s acquittal understandably brings great relief to many people and in different ways the whole process has been very difficult for everyone involved,” said Msgr Martin. “Following today’s judgement, the normal review under the Church’s safeguarding policy and procedures and the Church’s own internal process can resume and I undertake to ensure that these proceed as quickly as possible,” he added.
by Fintan Deere