A vacant parochial house, once home to notorious paedophile priest Fr Malachy Finnegan, was set alight in the early hours of this morning (Thursday).
A passing police patrol became aware of a fire at a vacant parochial house, on the Castlewellan Road in Hilltown, shortly before 3am
NIFRS personnel were in attendance and brought the blaze under control, however, extensive damage has been caused to the property. It is believed at this time that the fire was started deliberately.
Fr Finnegan, who died in 2002, carried out a campaign of sexual abuse against children over the space of four decades and also abused an altar boy from the age of 10 at the former parochial house, which was targeted.
One of Finnegan’s victims, Sean Faloon previously described the house as a “monument to a monster”.
Speaking to the Newsletter in 2019, Mr Faloon, said: “People don’t call it the parochial house any more, they call it a monument to a monster.
“Those aren’t my words but I do agree with it. It gives people the creeps. It is a constant reminder to everyone in the village of the sexual abuse and rape of children.
“I want to make clear that I don’t live in Hilltown and I never will because of what happened. I have relatives in Hilltown still and I tend to visit them in hours of darkness so I don’t have to see the parochial house.
“Those that do live in Hilltown are reminded of what happened in that house on a daily basis – you can’t miss it.”
A spokesperson for the NI Fire and Rescue Service said: “Firefighters were called to a fire at a two-storey property earlier this morning.
“Two fire appliances from Rathfriland Fire Station and one fire appliance each from Warrenpoint Fire Station and from Newry Fire Station attended the scene.
“Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus, used one jet and three hose reels to extinguish the fire.
“The incident was dealt with by 5.35am and the cause of the fire is being treated as deliberate at this time.”
An investigation into the incident is underway and officers would ask anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the area or who has any information which could assist them with their enquiries, to contact police at Ardmore station on 101, quoting reference number 108 31/08/23.
A report can be submitted online using the non-emergency reporting form via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/ or you can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at http://crimestoppers-uk.org/.