Image scandal priest releases statement

THE parish priest embroiled in an image scandal earlier this year after obscene pictures were inadvertently shown at a primary school has released a statement.

Father Martin McVeigh projected the images onto a screen during a meeting for parents in Pomeroy in preparation for First Holy Communion on 26 March.

One child was present. Parents said 16 indecent images of men were displayed.

The priest said he had no knowledge of the offending imagery.

The incident occurred during a meeting at St Mary’s School in Pomeroy.

Yesterday Farther Martin McVeigh celebrated 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 and then Fr McVeigh addressed the congregation with the following comments:

“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.”

After reading this statement yesterday Fr McVeigh received a “rapturous applause” in each church.

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.”