A parish priest cleared of indecently assaulting a teenage girl in Derry two decades ago has spoken of his relief to end “the darkest two years” of his life.
On Wednesday a jury at Derry Crown Court found Fr Eugene Boland (66), of Parochial House, Killyclogher Road, Omagh not guilty by majority verdict on all five charges against him of indecent assault on a girl aged around 14 years-old. The charges related to alleged incidents in the parochial house of St Joseph’s Church, Galliagh between June 28, 1990 and June 30, 1992 where she worked as a volunteer.
There were cheers from supporters of Fr Boland as the verdict was delivered following an eight day trial and several hours of deliberation by the jury of four men and eight women.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday, Fr Boland said it was “the first day of the rest of my life”.
“I couldn’t begin to express how happy I feel that it is all over. Two and half years is very long time to have something like this hanging over you,” he added.
He said the day he first heard of the allegations against him in 2010 heralded “the darkest two years” of his life as he was suspended from his ministry as a priest. “It was one of the most difficult days of my life, my whole life is the priesthood. I can remember vividly the Sunday morning, the 5th of August, when I said my last Mass in St Mary’s Church in Killyclogher . . . they [members of the congregation] were just crying, they weren’t sure of the exact nature of the allegations but they knew something very, very serious had happened that I had to step down.” The Moville-born cleric, who is now hoping to return to his ministry as soon as a Canonical Investigation is carried out internally in the Catholic Church, said he held no bitterness toward the woman who made the allegations against him. However, he said he could not understand why she did what she did. He said: “How could that person make such as allegation, because there was no truth in it?” But he added: “I have no bitterness or anger, I have forgiven that person because to hold bitterness or anger would weigh me down. For whatever reason she made that allegation, but I have forgiven her.” Fr Boland’s case dominated headlines for the duration of the eight day trial, however the cleric of 42 years said the publicity of the case “did not affect my reputation among those who know me. I have not come across anybody who has thought negatively about me . . . and I always believed the truth would come out in the end.”
Fr Boland paid tribute to those who stood by him throughout his “nightmare”. I’d like to thank all the wonderful people, from all over the world and, in particular, my parishioners who have supported with their love, their care and their compassion.”
Fr Boland met yesterday morning with Monsignor Eamon Martin, Diocesan Administrator, Diocese of Derry. In a statement, Fr Martin said: “Fr. Boland has always denied these charges and, at the start of the investigation, the Diocese of Derry emphasised his entitlement to a presumption of innocence. Fr. Boland’s acquittal understandably brings great relief to many people. In different ways the whole process has been very difficult for everyone involved. Through its pastoral and other support systems, the diocese seeks to reach out to anyone who has been affected by this case. Following today’s judgement, the normal review under the church’s safeguarding policy and procedures and the church’s own internal process can resume.
“As Diocesan Administrator, I undertake to ensure that these proceed as quickly as possible.”