Northern Ireland

Donagh McDermott brothers' victims 'forgotten about'

James McDermott and Owen-Roe McDermott
Image caption The McDermott brothers were deemed mentally unfit to stand trial

A man abused as a child by the McDermott brothers in Donagh, County Fermanagh, has said their victims are being forgotten about.

On Thursday, justice minister David Ford denied a clerical error made in a supervision and treatment order enabled two of the brothers to return home.

Mr Ford was speaking after officials from his department told a Stormont committee there was an error.

The victim said survivors of the brothers must be kept better informed.

"If there was an error there and it was going to become public, I think us as victims are forgotten in all of this.

"Why couldn't it be brought to our attention before it is brought into the public domain to give us a little bit of time to gather our thoughts and prepare ourselves for what's coming," he said.

"This is not the first time that this has happened. I believe that the sudden public announcement when the brothers were moved out of Donagh was wrong, that we should have been given the information before the public."

James and Owen Roe McDermott abused children in the Fermanagh village of Donagh over a 30-year period, but were judged mentally unfit to stand trial. The brothers then returned to live in the village.

However Mr Ford said they would have returned to Donagh, regardless of the error.

In July, a month after they were said to be unfit for trial, they voluntarily admitted themselves to hospital for treatment.

The victim, who did not want to be named, said the brothers' return had added to the trauma of survivors.

"I went through five weeks, from 18 June right through until 23 July, when these guys were in that village looking across at a children's play area when I had the equivalent of four hours sleep at night thinking about that.

"I relived own my horror and fear for others.

"If it emerges that could have been avoided, I'm going to be absolutely appalled."

On Thursday, a Justice Department official said the judge had included a residency requirement in his original judgement.

However, this was not included in the brothers' supervision and treatment order.

In a statement later, a department of justice spokesperson said this was not the cause of the brothers' returning to the village.

'No bearing'

The statement said: "Having discussed this again with officials and re-reading the court judgement, it is clear that the administrative error had no bearing on the Western Trust's decision to allow the two brothers to return to Donagh on completion of the court case.

"The judgement of the court is clear that the supervising officer could direct the address at which each of the brothers resided and there were restrictions on them entering particular parts of the village.

"The minister regrets the manner in which this has been presented, leading to further hurt and distress for the survivors of the McDermott brothers."

When the brothers returned to the village, a legal loophole was blamed.

The MP for the Donagh area, Michelle Gildernew, said that people in the area would be "shocked" by news of the mistake and said that she would contacting the Department of Justice to ask for an explanation.

James and Owen Roe were given lifetime orders banning them from being with children, and a two-year treatment and supervision order placing them in the care of social services.

Another brother, John, was jailed for nine years in June for the abuse, which was described as frequent, regular and persistent.

A fourth brother, Peter Paul McDermott, took his own life during his trial on abuse charges involving two young boys.

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