Northern Ireland

Fermanagh village faced a 'tidal wave of abuse'

John McDermott was sentenced at Omagh Crown Court
Image caption John McDermott was sentenced at Omagh Crown Court

A village in County Fermanagh faced a "tidal wave" of sex abuse from four brothers, a judge has said.

He was sentencing John Michael McDermott, 60, of Moorlough Road, Donagh, for 35 charges of sexually abusing children over 30 years.

He was jailed for nine years and given three years probation. His most serious crime was the rape of a boy.

Two of his brothers - mentally unfit to stand trial - were given lifetime sexual offences prevention orders.

James, 61, and Owen Roe McDermott, 52, were banned from schools and playgrounds in the village and from having access to anyone aged under 16.

A fourth brother killed himself after the start of his trial last month.

Peter Paul McDermott, 62, was found hanged near his home.

'Frequent'

Their victims said the brothers had destroyed their childhoods.

The four brothers lived together in Donagh which Omagh Crown Court Judge David McFarland described as "a quiet picturesque village."

However he said that due to the crimes of the brothers "it was far from providing an idyllic childhood for those growing up there."

He added: "This was a village which had an appalling secret and it was the children who bore the brunt of the tidal wave of abuse".

Between them the brothers faced a total of 61 charges against six victims, both boys and girls committed over five decades from 1969 to 2002.

The judge said the men grew up in a family where there was "a highly deviant culture of sexually abusing children."

Prosecuting lawyer Simon Reid described the sex abuse as "frequent, regular and persistent both in the village of Donagh and surrounding countryside."

The brothers, he added, would sometimes use "sly inducements to exploit the innocence" of children, while on other occasions they resulted to brute force, "to overpower them".

One victim described how he felt like a prisoner in his own home, fearing that when he went out a McDermott brother would show up sooner or later.

Defence lawyer Martin Rodgers said the only mitigating factor in the case was the guilty pleas of John McDermott, saving five of the victims having to "rehearse their pain" in open court.

"The facts of this case are horrendous and unique," said Mr Rodgers, who added that the brothers came from a highly dysfunctional family.

It was not clear, he said, how the abuse first began or how it spread from brother to brother.

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