A PRIEST involved in a controversial out-of-court settlement after allegations of a sex assault has been banned from saying Mass where he now lives, in France, the Irish Independent has learned.
Father Andrew McCloskey paid out €20,000 in 2005 to a man who claimed he had been sexually assaulted by him when he was 18.
A second teenager also made allegations against the priest, though he never took legal action. And there was uproar in the cross-border Diocese of Derry when then Bishop Seamus Hegarty admitted that the priest was later given a job within the church counselling sex abuse victims.
Fr McCloskey stood down from his role with the 'Hope Alive' group and from his position in Dungiven, Co Derry, when news of the out-of-court deal emerged in January 2005.
However, there was anger among priests in the diocese -- which covers parts of Derry, Donegal, Tyrone and Antrim -- when they discovered Fr McCloskey was living in the south of France. He has been working as a teacher of English at adult classes in Nice.
However, he has been banned from active ministry.
In a statement to the Irish Independent, a spokesman for the Derry Diocese insisted the church and civil authorities in France are aware of the allegations made against Fr McCloskey.
"Fr McCloskey has been on leave of absence since March 2005 and is not in sacred ministry," said the spokesman.
"Some years ago, the Diocese of Derry contacted the diocesan authorities in Nice, where Fr McCloskey resides, making them aware of Fr McCloskey's residence in the diocese, the fact that he is out of ministry and of the circumstances of his leave of absence.
"The diocesan authorities in Nice are aware that he has no permission to exercise ministry, which includes the celebration of public Mass. The civil authorities in Northern Ireland are aware of Fr McCloskey and have, within their responsibility, the provision for international liaison where residence is outside the UK."
The statement added that the diocese is guided by the civil authorities and the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.
The priest told parishioners in January 2005 that he was taking a leave of absence saying he had "made a mistake for which I have paid very dearly".
The abuse incident allegedly took place in the parochial house of St Mary's Church in the Creggan estate in Derry in 1992.
Fr McCloskey was transferred by the then Bishop Edward Daly shortly afterwards to the parish of Drumsurn 15 miles away.
When he stood down, another priest, Father Kevin McKenna, said the allegation "was at the lowest point of the scale in terms of abuse -- there was no exposure, there was no removal of clothes, it was a one-off touch that should not have happened".
Bishop Hegarty later admitted that a second allegation against Fr McCloskey had been made in 1999 but that he had gone ahead and appointed the priest to the abuse victim counselling role a year later.