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26/11/2009

Priest Bailed As Abuse Report Published

A Co Antrim priest - who has already ceased his ministry over allegations of child-sex abuse - has been arrested and then bailed by the Metropolitan Police in London.

Fr Paul Symonds, a curate in the parish of Kirkinriola, Ballymena, was granted bail following his arrest on Monday on suspicion of indecent assault.

He has been relieved of his ministry and has to return to England in February.

He is being investigated for allegations that date back to the 1970s when he worked in Lancashire. Metropolitan Police are involved because the alleged victim is understood to live in London.

The priest is well known for his ecumenical work following sectarian violence in Ballymena and in 2008 was even awarded an OBE for his cross-community work.
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He worked for five years during the 1970s at the Catholic boarding school, Stonyhurst College, near Clitheroe and then moved to Brussels where he was director of the Jesuit European Office and then he worked at the Curia in Rome until 1989.

In the 1990s he applied to leave the Jesuits and moved to Northern Ireland where he was transferred to the Diocese of Down and Connor.

He was initially a priest in Drumbo before moving to Ballymena, where he became well known for working to resolve sectarian problems.

Today in Dublin trauma counsellors are preparing for an onslaught of crisis calls after the anticipated revelations of a Catholic Church cover-up of clerical sex abuse.

There was a surge in calls after the Ryan Report in May, and they said they were preparing for a similar reaction to the Dublin Archdiocese inquiry.

The Irish Republic's Health Service Executive has also launched a special extended counselling helpline while the Samaritans said it was fully prepared for an increase in calls.

(BMcC/GK)

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