Clerical abuse victim slams Stormont probe

Michael Connolly
Michael Connolly
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A VICTIM of clerical sex abuse has questioned why the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) has approved an inquiry that will only probe institutions which provided residential care.

The Executive’s inquiry into historical sex abuse will examine if there were failings by institutions or the state towards children in their care from 1922-1995 and OFMDFM says the inquiry will probe any organisation which “provided residential accommodation” for children.

But yesterday Michael Connolly, who has set up www.ClericalAbuseNI.com, to campaign for victims, slammed OFMDFM for, as he sees it, excluding clerical sexual abuse outside such institutions.

He said: “It is like they are telling us that only those people who suffered abuse in residential institutions count, while those of us who suffered clerical sex abuse outside of this don’t matter.

“I was told this may have been because taking in both types of cases would be too big.”

The Fermanagh man from Donagh added: “Abuse in residential accommodation institutions would mainly affect children who were orphans or in care, but in my view clerical sexual abuse is what took place in vestries and schools across many parishes.

“Between the ages of eight and 14 I was being abused by a priest that I had gone to get help from six other abusers in my village.”

TUV MLA Jim Allister said: “I just hope clerical abuse survivors are not being excluded because of a softly, softly approach to the Roman Catholic Church.”

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International said the proposals never included abuse outside residential institutions.

“We are confident this is a decent inquiry but we are calling for another to be launched in parallel,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Nexus Institute said that, along with Victim Support NI and Contact NI, it “requested reconsideration of the boundaries chosen” and that they were “aware of those that are not included”.

But she said it was important that the momentum for the current review continues and that lessons are learned from it.

Mike Nesbitt MLA, chairman of the OFMDFM committee, said he was aware of the limitations when the proposals were first made.

Mr Nesbitt said he did not know why victims outside residential institutions had been excluded but felt it may be because a broader inquiry may have been too large.

He also said that the main lobbying had come from victims who had experienced abuse inside institutions.

“The terms of reference have been brought forward by OFMDFM and it is only them that can explain the parameters they have set,” he said.

“We were advised to back this inquiry as so many victims are getting so old – and then to see if we could also get a follow-up inquiry.”

OFMDFM had not offered any comment at the time of going to press.

Victims and survivors can report abuse to the inquiry on 0800 068 49 35.