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St. Colman’s College sexual abuse victims call for new location for blue plaque to Newry hero

St Colman's Newry
St Colman's Newry

The Dromore Group is calling for an alternative location for a ‘blue plaque’ for Newry hero, Sean Hollywood.

Hollywood was a former politician, sportsman, civil rights leader, actor, teacher and giant in the performing arts scene.

Hundreds will gather for the unveiling at St Colman’s College, where he was an inspirational teacher for 31 years before his untimely death at the age of 54 in 1998.

Newry Maritime Association, which promotes the nautical heritage of Newry, nominated Sean Hollywood for a commemorative ‘blue plaque’.

The Ulster History Circle, the accrediting body for the ‘blue plaque’, approved the nomination. A plaque will be unveiled on December 12 at St. Colman’s College, Newry.

The Dromore Group includes survivors of paedophile priest, Fr Malachy Finegan who taught at St Colman’s College from 1967 to 1987, spending the last decade as the school’s president.

The Group says the decision to site the ‘blue plaque’ at St. Colman’s College is insensitive given the enduring trauma of those sexually abused at the school.

St. Colman’s College continues to be sued by multiple victims of Fr. Finegan.

The Dromore Group, recognises the important contribution by Sean Hollywood to the arts as well as to civil rights at a critical period in our history. It fully supports a ‘blue plaque’ in tribute.

As one St. Colman’s survivor put it: “Sean remains a very happy, bright memory from a very dark and awful place.”

Tony Gribben of the Dromore Group said: “We’re convinced that Sean Hollywood would be abhorred by the unending testimony of sexual abuse and human rights’ violations at the College’.

The Group says that the plaque should not be hosted by St. Colman’s College. It has reached out to the Ulster History Circle and the Newry Maritime Association to discuss other, more suitable locations. The offer of dialogue and exchange with both organisations has not been taken up.

The Dromore Group’s Tony Gribben says that in failing to engage with St. Colman’s survivors, as a critical constituency, the Ulster History Circle undermines the integrity of the plaque.

The Group is encouraged by the level of public support for an open, comprehensive and inclusive conversation on all site options for the plaque.

Through formal engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive, and with support from Amnesty International, The Dromore Group is calling for an independent, public inquiry into clerical sexual abuse and where St. Colman’s College would feature significantly.

To this end, The Dromore Group awaits the outcomes of ongoing work by the Stormont administration and an eventual re-establishment of an Assembly to bring its recommendations further.

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