Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Church elder denies abuse charges

Church elder denies abuse charges

A church elder from County Antrim has denied that he sexually abused a girl between 1978 and 1983.

John William McConaghy, 66, who is also known as Jack, was giving evidence on his own behalf at Antrim Crown Court.

The Ballycastle Gospel Hall elder faces 21 charges of indecent assault on the girl who was 11 when the abuse began.

His cousin, John McElheran, 53, from Ballinlea Road in Stranocum, denies taking part in the abuse. He is charged with four counts of indecent assault.

Mr McConaghy, from Urbal Road in Dervock, categorically denied repeated prosecution suggestions that he had abused the girl and that he had encouraged two of his cousins to take part.

Now wheelchair bound, the defendant said that he had been a church elder since 1977 and a Sunday school teacher for 30 years, "without even one complaint".

"Gossiped"

On the specific claim that he had incited his cousin, "through rude remarks" to abuse the girl, Mr McConaghy replied that "being members of the Gospel Hall we would never lower ourselves to have such a conversation".

However, when asked what he believed was behind the allegations, Mr McConaghy "speculated" it arose from around 2001 when he was stripped of his position as an elder after having "gossiped" about members of the congregation.

He claimed that when the following year he was asked to become an elder again, the family of the woman making the abuse claims left the Gospel Hall and have since "isolated themselves" from the congregation.

However, McConaghy claimed that when the woman was getting married he'd received an invite to the wedding, although he could not attend for medical reasons.

He said that on one occasion he supplied her with a written reference which helped her get a job in England.

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