Tuesday 17 October 2017

Sexual abuse investigation in children's home 'best dropped', inquiry hears

Alleged victims of paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth are among those expected to give evidence.
Alleged victims of paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth are among those expected to give evidence.

Michael McHugh

A senior official at a Catholic order investigating the first sexual abuse allegations at a Northern Ireland children's home said the matter was best forgotten about, a public inquiry heard.

An overseer De La Salle brother at Rubane House in Co Down, now dead, faced claims first raised by a group of four boys who confided about their experiences to a priest in 1958. The number complaining eventually grew to nine, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry was told.

The alleged victims said their alleged abuser told them he was taking the place of their parents and was entitled to touch them.

Some boys accused him of making them strip and rubbing ointment for scabies on him. Abuse allegedly happened at the home and in a car.

A letter from the senior brother in the order to the alleged abuser concluded that no reference was to be made at any time to his probe into the claims.

He said: "It is best forgotten and I have told some brothers that no reference is to be made to it among themselves or the boys.

"The whole affair is best dropped with the prayer that all will learn that lesson that our holy rule is very wise in its prescriptions."

He said he was left with a "slight doubt" about the overseer. He ordered a glass panel be installed in the director of the brothers' office and a boy was not to travel alone in a car after allegations relating to both places, documents read out during the inquiry showed.

Despite conducting dozens of interviews the Irish provincial brother did not report the matter to police, lawyer Joseph Aiken told the inquiry.

The alleged abuser was later moved to an institution run by the order in Downpatrick in Co Down and died in Nigeria in 1994.

A lawyer has told the HIA inquiry that the alleged abuser went on to inflict a litany of assaults over 20 years.

Former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) detective chief superintendent Eric Anderson has said sexual abuse was rampant at the home.

Around a fifth of boys claimed they were subjected to sexual or physical abuse, according to the public inquiry, equal to if not worse than that at another notorious home, Kincora in east Belfast.

Rubane was the subject of a police investigation in the 1990s, the inquiry panel was previously told. Three De La Salle order brothers were charged but none convicted after their trials did not go ahead due to legal issues.

Between 1951 and 1985 around 1,000 children stayed at Rubane, near Kircubbin on the Ards Peninsula, a voluntary home for boys aged between 11 and 16. Abuse of around a fifth of residents ranged from watching boys in the showers for sexual gratification to rape or physical attacks, Mr Aiken has said.

The probe was established by Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration at Stormont and is sitting in Banbridge in Co Down. It is chaired by former High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart and investigating what took place at 13 residential children's homes run by religious orders, voluntary organisations and the state in the 73-year period up to 1995.

Around 200 former residents made abuse allegations about Rubane, 55 have come forward to the inquiry and the majority are expected to give evidence. Lawyers are to examine 40,000 pages of documents.

Alleged victims of paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth are among those expected to give evidence.

The order has in recent years dealt with more than 50 civil claims brought by former residents; 22 have been resolved. The order has paid out almost £390,000 in compensation.

The inquiry is expected to begin hearing evidence next week.

Press Association

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