Northern Ireland news

Silence from policitcal leaders over calls for public inquiry into clerical abuse is `deafening' - Amnesty

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International said `with a new wave of allegations of child abuse and cover-up emerging, the silence from political leaders is deafening'. Picture by Mal McCann

THE "deafening silence" from Northern Ireland's political leaders in the face of "wave after wave" of clerical child abuse is seeing victims failed yet again, campaigners have warned.

Three years after Newry priest Seamus Reid was named as a prolific child sex abuser, more victims have come forward to detail their harrowing ordeal.

Prompted by revelations surrounding the sadistic targetting of pupils at St Colman's College in the city by Malachy Finegan, pupils of nearby St Joseph's High School have revealed how the former principal blighted their childhood.

One survivor of Reid told Radio Ulster's `The Nolan Show' how the abuse followed him home, with the priest "calling round for a tea and coffee and scones and biscuits or whatever and saying `I'm going so-and-so, I'll take (***) along for the run'."

He recounted how as an 11-year-old he would sleep in his school uniform in the woods to escape the arguments that resulted from his attempts to avoid being alone with the paedophile priest.

"He destroyed my family life... It wasn't just my life, he destroyed my relationship with my father especially."

The young boy would deliberately be out of the house when he knew Reid has specifically asked for him.

"When I would come home later that night, as you can imagine, not being home for the priest, being from a Catholic family (he was) looked upon as someone special, ... it wasn't too nice some nights in the house, caused a lot of argument and then the argument branched out between my mother and my father.

"Somebody in my family would say `You're nothing but a troublemaker'. I knew I was causing trouble at home. I didn't know what to do. Slept in bus shelters, slept in the woods.

"Sleeping in woods it was scarier, but it was warmer... When you ran out of the house in the middle of a row you weren't packing a bag."

Amnesty International's Patrick Corrigan said it is pressing the Secretary of State for a public inquiry into clerical child abuse in Northern Ireland previously refused by the Northern Ireland Executive.

"We have known since 2015 that Fr Seamus Reid was a serial child abuser in the diocese of Dromore, given access to children through schools and as chaplain of a local scout troop," he said.

"Eleven allegations of child abuse were previously made against him. He died without ever having been held to account. New victims of Fr Reid are now coming forward to tell their stories for the first time on the Nolan Show.

He said "tenacious investigative journalism... cannot be a substitute for effective police investigations and a proper public inquiry into how the Church and state authorities failed these children in the first place".

"Even now, with a new wave of allegations of child abuse and cover-up emerging, the silence from political leaders is deafening.

"We call on leaders of all the parties to urge the Secretary of State to take the necessary steps to establish such an inquiry."

The Irish News contacted the five main parties asking if they supported a public inquiry in to clerical sex abuse.

The SDLP said it "believes there should be a full and transparent public inquiry into clerical abuse".

Alliance did not commit itself to supporting an inquiry.

In a statement, Kellie Armstrong said: "The Church must take responsibility and reveal to the police what they know about physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by priests, and any other people associated with responsibility or authority within its organisation and schools."

There was no response by 6pm yesterday from Sinn Féin, the DUP and UUP.

A Catholic Church spokeswoman said the bishops have "reiterated their commitment to both the review process of dioceses undertaken by the National Board and their full cooperation with any inquiry required by statutory bodies".

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