Defence witnesses testify in priest case

Father Boland arriving at Derry Court yesterday. (1906PG91)
Father Boland arriving at Derry Court yesterday. (1906PG91)
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The jury in the trial of a priest accused of indecently assaulting a teenage girl are expected to consider their verdict today.

Fr Eugene Boland, of Parochial House, Killyclogher Road, Omagh, denies five charges of indecently assaulting the 14-year-old girl between June 28, 1990 and June 30, 1992.

The allegations made by the complainant are that the now 66-year-old hugged her, kissed her on the lips and rubbed her back underneath her clothes.

During day six of the trial, the jury of eight women and four men heard from a number of defence witnesses giving evidence on behalf of Fr Boland and closing speeches by the prosecution and defence counsel.

The first witness was Fr Eddie McGuinness, who was a priest in Galliagh at the time of the alleged offences and shared the parochial house with Fr Boland.

He told the court Fr Boland would have played golf every Tuesday, the day the complainant alleges the indecent assaults occurred.

Fr McGuinness said golf was Fr Boland’s “first religion” and he cannot recall any Tuesday when the 66-year-old was in the parochial house before 10pm.

He told the jury there was never any suggestion the 66-year-old had acted inappropriately with any young person, stating “no definitely not”.

The court also heard evidence from the complainant’s aunt, who claimed she saw her niece at a church function in 1991 dancing with Fr Boland.

She added she was a close friend of the complainant’s mother and that they would have confided everything in each other.

The aunt told the jury that the alleged victim’s mother was “very fond of Fr Boland” and “never said a bad word about him”.

Jurors also heard evidence from women who volunteered in the parochial house as teenagers at the same time as the complainant.

One of the women said she worked at the parochial house on a Wednesday night and had known Fr Boland “all my life”.

She claimed the priest had never made her feel uncomfortable and he was “always warm, friendly and met you with a kiss or a hug”.

The final witness, who volunteered at the house on a Thursday, also told the jury Fr Boland had never acted in a way she found offensive or sexual.

The jury are expected to hear a speech from Judge Stephen Fowler this morning, before they retire to deliberate a verdict.