A TYRONE priest who is well-known within the GAA community has voluntarily stepped aside from his position following the emergence of a historical claim.
Fr Gerard McAleer made the decision to step aside after concerns were brought to the Archdiocese of Armagh and gardai received reports regarding an unidentified priest.
The church has refused to disclose the priest’s identity or the parish in which he serves, although the claims are understood to relate to Fr McAleer prior to his ordination.
A native of Beragh, County Tyrone, Fr McAleer is a former principal of St Patrick’s Boys Academy in Dungannon.
He is a well-known figure within the GAA, having guided Tyrone to unprecedented underage GAA success in the 1990’s alongside Mickey Harte.
Fr McAleer was assistant manager to the Tyrone senior team when they won the All-Ireland Football Championship Final in 2003.
Parishioners in Donaghmore and neighbouring Galbally were informed of the news in an announcement read at Masses at the weekend.
It is understood that Fr McAleer celebrated morning Mass in Donaghmore on Saturday but was not present for the vigil Mass later that evening.
The parish lies within the Archdiocese of Armagh, which released a statement but declined to name either the priest or the parish concerned.
Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh, asked for prayers for all concerned, adding that the man accused was entitled to a presumption of innocence.
"In line with the safeguarding policy and the standards and guidance of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, a parish priest of the archdiocese of Armagh has voluntarily stood aside from his position because of concerns brought to the diocese and reported to the gardai," he said.
"The information received is historic and relates to a time prior to his time in ministry in the archdiocese, and indeed prior to his ordination as a priest.
"The relevant statutory authorities in Northern Ireland have been informed.
"The Archbishop of Armagh has asked for prayers for all concerned while stressing that during the period of the investigation the priest, who has voluntarily stepped aside from all his pastoral duties, continues to be entitled to the natural right of every person to the presumption of innocence pending the completion of all relevant State and Church processes."