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Abuse Allegations Levelled At Deceased Former Tipperary Protestant Minister.

Kilcooley Parish Church, Co. Tipperary.

A BBC Spotlight investigation [Research: Conor Spackman & Pippa Cooke] has found that a Church of Ireland clergyman in east Belfast was transferred to the rural parish of Kilcooley, Co. Tipperary here in the Irish Republic, following child sex abuse allegations, having been made against him back in the 1970s.

Considered a high flyer in the Church of Ireland; Rev. Canon Billy Neely was for 10 years a protestant minister at Mount Merrion Parish Church, Cregagh, Belfast in the 1970s. He was also a Scout leader, who was later banned from the scouting organisation, after being moved in 1976 to the Parish of Kilcooley; latter in the Dioceses of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, (encompassing churches at Littleton, Crohane and Johnstown), in the barony of Slievardagh, Co Tipperary; 5 miles south of Johnstown in Co. Kilkenny.

In a statement to the BBC, the Scouting Association confirmed it had become aware, in 1977, of inappropriate behaviour by the now deceased Rev. Billy Neely; which in turn was confirmed by the then Bishop of Down and Dromore, Right Reverend George Quin (1970-1980).

In October 1977, Rev. Neely was removed from his role as ‘volunteer scout leader’, and action was also taken to ensure he could never re-join the Scouting organisation.

Allegations made against him are understood to be that he was beating small boys for personal sexual gratification.

BBC Spotlight investigations have revealed that Rev. Neely’s ministry in Tipperary, meant that despite having been banned for life by the Scouts, he continued to have access to young children, through his ministry, which involved presiding over a Sunday school group and visiting at a local school.

We understand that the Church of Ireland are refusing to comment on these allegations, because of ongoing legal proceedings, thus preventing any further prejudice to legal cases.

Rev. Neely returned to Northern Ireland in the 1980s, to serve in the parish of Keady, Co. Armagh, before once again given the honorary title of Canon, granted to some senior or retired ministers of the Church.

Rev. Neely passed away in 2009 and was interned in the grounds of St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have confirmed that it has no records of allegations made to the RUC in the 1970s.

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