Northern Ireland

Fermanagh abuse claims: Council co-operating with police

Boy with head on knees Image copyright Getty Images

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council is "co-operating" with detectives investigating allegations of historical child sexual abuse.

Some of the allegations relate to claims children were sexually abused by a network of men in public toilets in Enniskillen.

The toilets were once owned by the former Fermanagh District Council.

Ten months ago, claims of alleged child abuse in Fermanagh first emerged in The Impartial Reporter newspaper.

The council's chairperson, Siobhan Currie, made a statement outlining its legal position on Tuesday night.

While outlining the legal position, which effectively banned all discussion of the subject in the chamber, Cllr Currie said co-operation with the PSNI is ongoing, that safeguarding protocols are in place and that funding is being provided to a number of agencies supporting victims.

The issue was raised Donal O'Cofaigh, who asked why it was possible to discuss some criminal matters subject to live investigation, but not the "pervasive and increasing number of incidents of allegations of child sex abuse in Fermanagh".

Members were previously told that on the back of legal advice, discussion was prohibited as it may prejudice the investigation.

'Censored'

However, at January's council meeting, a decision was taken to write to the PSNI chief constable to condemn the alleged attempted murder of a police officer in Kesh.

Mr O'Cofaigh pointed to "disparity" in the chamber as he and other members were "censored" for trying to raise the Fermanagh sex abuse.

Image caption Claims of alleged child abuse in Fermanagh were first revealed 10 months ago by The Impartial Reporter's Rodney Edwards

Ms Currie said members were at liberty to say what they wished outside the chamber, but warned of the possibility of putting prosecutions at risk, which could only be detrimental to victims.

"We continue to liaise with police on this matter at the most senior level," she said.

The Sinn Féin councillor added that she was satisfied that the council itself, through its safeguarding arrangements and policies, has in place "an established protocol for escalation of any reported matters to either social services or directly to police".

She added: "In supporting the victims, we as elected members must act responsibly and exercise the highest caution. We must take care not to prejudice investigations and, setting aside any issue around the limits of privilege, we must also take care to avoid the risk of impacting any subsequent trials.

"We must ensure that what we say could not be used against the victims themselves at some stage in the future. That is what has been advised."

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