Northern Ireland

Former priest Peter Donnelly denies child sex abuse

Belfast court complex
Image caption Peter Donnelly, 71, told the jury at Belfast Crown Court that he "totally denied" the allegations

A former Belfast priest has told a jury he "totally denied" allegations that he sexually abused a young female parishioner in the 1980s.

Peter Donnelly, from Drumaroad Hill in Castlewellan, County Down, is a former priest at St Matthew's Catholic Church in east Belfast.

He is accused of sexually assaulting the girl in the church's parochial house from July 1982 to August 1987.

The 71-year denies the seven charges against him.

He has been charged with six counts of indecently assaulting the girl, and a further charge of gross indecency with a child.

Giving evidence at his trial, Fr Donnelly told the jury he served at St Matthew's in east Belfast from 1983 until 1988. The allegation of abuse was made in September 2010 and at that time, Fr Donnelly was a parish priest in south Down.

He told Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday what happened when the allegation was made.

"The bishop called with me and told me this allegation has arisen. He advised me that I should voluntarily stand down from the ministry and I thought, for the good of the church, that I should stand down from the ministry whilst this investigation was on-going," he said.

The alleged victim claims that she was indecently assaulted a number of times from when she was 10 until she was in her early teens.

She said the abuse occurred in the parochial house at St Matthew's - a claim that was refuted by Fr Donnelly.

When the priest was asked to comment on the allegations again him - which include an incident that she claimed took place in his bedroom - Fr Donnelly responded by saying "I totally deny that."

The trial continues