Sex abuse accused priest dies suddenly

Rev. John McCullagh pictured in the early 1980s.
Rev. John McCullagh pictured in the early 1980s.

A Derry priest at the centre of a child sex abuse controversy a number of years ago has died.

Rev. John McCullagh (78) passed away suddenly in Maghera on Wednesday.

It’s understood Derry’s Diocesan hierarchy was first alerted to the allegations against Rev. McCullagh in 1994.

In 2000, the Co. Tyrone born priest made an out-of-court settlement when he paid £12,000 of his own money and wrote a letter of apology to a woman from the Derry Diocese who accused him of abusing her over a 10 year period, starting in 1979, from when she was just eight years-old.

Rev. McCullagh, who denied the allegations, made the agreement without admission of liability.

In 2010, a Diocesan spokesperson revealed that Rev. McCullagh - who stood down from active ministry in the 1990s - was subject to strict rules imposed by the Church.

It also emerged that he’d been moved from a parochial house in the Strabane parish, where he’d been living for a number of years, following an outcry from parishioners.

Ordained in 1961, Rev. McCullagh’s first appointment was as a curate in the St Patrick’s parish, Pennyburn, where he spent three years. This was followed by seven years in the St Eugene’s parish in Derry. From 1971 until 1984, he was Diocesan Advisor for RE before taking up a role in Maynooth as Director of Pastoral Studies.

In 1990, he became Parish Priest in Plumbridge where he remained until 1995. He retired in 1997.