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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 17:36 GMT 18:36 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Councillor admits sex abuse

Newry Court: SDLP councillor admitted sex abuse charges

A district councillor from Northern Ireland has pleaded guilty to 13 charges of child sex abuse.

The man, Michael Cunningham, who is a member of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), had previously denied the allegations.

The 51-year-old from Kilkeel has been a member of Newry and Mourne council since the 1997 local government election.

He is also actively involved at local level in the Gaelic Athletic Association.

Cunningham made a five minute appearance in the dock at Newry Crown Court late on Monday afternoon after a day of consultation with his legal team.

He admitted indecently assaulting two girls aged six and seven in a series of charges dating back to 1979.

Victims hear plea

His victims, now in their late twenties, were in the public gallery to hear his change of plea.

Four charges of raping one of the girls over a six year period were not proceeded with.

Cunningham was freed on bail pending preparation by the Northern Ireland Probation Service of a pre-sentence report.

Judge Randal McKay ordered that Cunningham's name should be placed on the Royal Ulster Constabulary's sex offenders register.

Cunningham signed the document before leaving the court.

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