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I knew what it was when it happened to me -- Finlay

BARNARDOS chief Fergus Finlay has broken his silence about sexual abuse he experienced as a child in a bid to call for greater accountability from the Catholic Church.

The chief executive of the children's charity said the excuse that sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests was not dealt with properly in the past because it was "the culture of the time" is a "complete myth".

Mr Finlay (62) broke his silence about his own sexual abuse, which he said happened in 1961 when he was 11 years old and involved an "elderly man" whom he describes as "very religious".

He explained how he told his father about the abuse and his father "dealt with the issue" and ensured the man did not go on to abuse again.

"I was sexually abused in 1961 when I was 11 years old. I knew what it was at the time, my father knew what it was when I told him about it and he knew what action was to be taken and it was taken," he said.

"As far as I know, the kind of action that was taken ensured no other child was abused by the same person," he added.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Finlay said the elderly man who had abused him was a "pathetic character".

He said he was an old man who was incapable of terrorising anyone but was capable of "molesting young boys" particularly "young boys in short pants".

He said when he told his father, he ensured nobody else "in his class or in his age group" had to endure similar abuse.


"The only reason I spoke out about this today was to highlight the fact that the culture was no different then. I am not trying to draw any comparisons between me and those who have experienced terrible suffering, who were terrorised and intimidated into not speaking out, and the terrible damage that has done. All I want to do is highlight that people knew what sexual abuse was then, as they know what it is now," he said.

Mr Finlay said he was extremely proud of his father's decisive action in the aftermath of the abuse and remained proud of him for the rest of his life.

"I think it is a complete myth to say that everything is excusable because the culture somehow changed. There has never been a time when abuse wasn't abuse," he said.

Referring to Cardinal Brady he said: "I don't accept that a 35-year-old man with significant theological and moral training can sit in front of a 14-year-old abused boy, ask him the kind of questions that according to the BBC documentary he asked him, take notes, pass the notes on and do nothing further about it. I just find that impossible to accept. There needs to be a change at the top in the interest of accountability," he said.

Irish Independent