Priest acquitted of indecent assault

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A priest cleared of indecently assaulting a teenage girl has said the allegation had “a devastating impact” on his life.

A jury at Derry Crown Court found Father Eugene Boland (66), of Parochial House, Killyclogher Road, Omagh not guilty by majority verdict on all five charges of indecent assault on the girl of around 14 years old in the parochial house of St Joseph’s Church, Galliagh between June 28, 1990 and June 30, 1992. There were cheers from Fr Boland’s supporters as the verdict was delivered following an eight day trial and several hours of deliberation by the jury of four men and eight women.

In a statement read on the cleric’s behalf by solicitor Kevin McGuigan outside Derry courthouse, Fr Boland said he now hopes to return to his ministry which was suspended by the Catholic Church when the allegations first arose two years ago.

“As a result of the allegation I have had to step back from my ministry as a priest. 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.”

He said the events of the past two years, culminating in the trial, “have been traumatic”. He added: “My reputation and character have been impugned by the allegation and the widespread coverage it received in the press and media.”

The Moville-born priest thanked the members of the jury for “bringing this nightmare to end”. “I’m grateful the suspicion and gossip which this allegation has provoked will now cease.”

He also had words of thanks for his family, friends, fellow priests and ministers from other denominations who attended the trial.

“I’am also grateful for the good wishes and prayers of the parishioners of Cappagh, my current parish, and for those parishioners from my previous parishes, they have been a constant support to me at this difficult time. Finally I’d like to specifically thank my legal team for their support and expertise from the outset and throughout the trial.”

Meanwhile, two women who clapped and cheered after the verdict were warned they could face contempt of court proceedings. Both were ordered to appear before a Belfast court next month.