Opinion

Justice needed for lost boys of 'historical' abuse

The Kincora boys' home in Belfast

IT has only been in the last year that the full scale of the mental, physical and sexual abuse inflicted on young children and teenagers in care in Northern Ireland has been made public.

Places like Kincora and Rubane House that were supposed to provide safe sanctuary for vulnerable children instead became places of torture where youngsters were neglected, abused and exploited.

Even now with the passage of time the nature of the abuse and who it involved is still in dispute.

Thanks to this painstaking work of investigative journalist Chris Moore and a BBC Spotlight team we now have eyewitness testimony from a victim that there was a paedophile ring being run from Kincora boys' home and abuse was not isolated to the staff as had previously been claimed.

The scandal of the sexual exploitation of young boys who were housed in the home has rumbled on for over 40 years.

One of the most prolific paedophiles, Joe Mains, who worked at the home as a caretaker, was a man who mingled and socialised with those in the highest echelons of power. His fellow abuser William McGrath was a senior Orangeman and alleged MI5 agent.

Faced with such powerful people whose interest it was to keep the true nature of the horrific abuse at Kincora secret what chance did the young victims have? They had no-one to shout on their behalf, no-one to fight their corner.

One must remember while these allegations are called historical, in some cases the people who suffered are still relatively young.

Many struggle with mental health and addiction problems brought on by their traumatic childhoods. Even now the help offered to those victims is pitifully absent, with the state which failed them as children continuing to fail them as adults.

Earlier this year The Irish News revealed the story of Kincora victim Stephen Waring, aged 16, who took his own life by jumping in the Irish Sea from a ferry that was transporting him back into the hands of his abusers from England where he'd fled.

His death was never investigated, no-one held to account. One of Kincora's lost boys.

While the abuse and the inquiry set up to investigate it considers these events historic it has to be remembered that all this took place in our lifetime.

Richard Kerr, the man interviewed by Spotlight and who revealed Mains took him and other boys to hotels, guest houses and private homes to be abused by paedophiles, is just 53 years old.

His story undermines previous police investigations and a public inquiry that concluded there was no organised paedophile network operating out of Kincora.

Richard revealed how Mains would take the boys on trips to hotels, ply them with drink then send them up to bedrooms to be exploited and abused by older men.

The teenage boys, many orphans or from broken homes, were given gifts of chocolates, watches and transistor radios by these men who have yet to be identified.

Richard Kerr was just 15 when he was used and abused by Mains and his paedophile friends.

In the aftermath of the recent sex abuse scandals including the Jimmy Savile case the British Home Office has established a new inquiry team to carry out a wide-ranging investigation of institutional child abuse. However, Northern Ireland will not be covered and despite allegations that people linked to Westminster were involved in Kincora it is absent from the inquiry's remit.

Keith Vaz, who chairs the home affairs committee at Westminster, told Spotlight that the testimony of Richard Kerr must be heard by the new government inquiry under solicitor Fiona Woolf.

Given this testimony there must now also be a new police investigation and efforts made to trace the people who were involved in abusing young boys outside the home.

Most journalists who have covered the Kincora case already have a list of names of those allegedly involved, some old and frail, others who went on to hold public office.

Without solid evidence these people cannot be named and will continue to evade justice. But regardless of age they should at least be questioned.

Likewise the activities of those who hid behind the Catholic Church to batter, abuse and exploit young children and boys should also now be subject to a full and thorough police investigation.

The PSNI has said it no longer has the finances to investigate the past. While the abuse was ongoing the then RUC blocked any efforts to investigate and protect children housed at Kincora, more interested in saving informers and powerful people from prosecution.

Those officers who blocked efforts to bring the abuse out into the open should also be held to account.

Similarly a fresh police investigation into Rubane House, where around 200 former residents have claimed they were abused, must now take place.

While the inquiries and the findings are important to victims and for the "on the record" documentation of systemic abuse of vulnerable Irish children, it's not the judicial conclusion they deserve.

The lost boys of Kincora and Rubane House are finally finding a voice but they're still a long way off achieving justice.

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