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Kincora: UK child abuse inquiry must look at Belfast boys’ home, says Amnesty International

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Kincora Boy's Home in east Belfast
Kincora Boy’s Home in east Belfast

Amnesty International has said Kincora Boys’ Home in Northern Ireland should be included in the new UK child abuse inquiry announced by Home Secretary Theresa May.

Three senior care staff from the notorious children’s home in east Belfast were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys, but allegations have persisted that the paedophile ring was linked to the intelligence services. It is feared that there are many more victims and abusers during the period between 1960 and 1980.
One convicted child abuser, William McGrath, was an MI5 agent and alleged two police probes were obstructed by the British establishment.
Kincora is the subject of an ongoing public inquiry launched into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland.
Amnesty’s Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan pointed out the inquiry has limited powers and cannot compel the release of files from either Whitehall or the secret services “where any secrets are likely to lie buried”.
The new Hillsborough-style inquiry announced by the Home Secretary does have the power to demand access to secret files.
“Nothing less than the inclusion of the Kincora home in the new inquiry is liable to see the truth finally arrived at, and justice finally delivered,” he said.
“Allegations have persisted that paedophilia at Kincora was linked to British intelligence services, with claims that visitors to the home included members of the military, politicians and civil servants, and that police investigations into abuse at Kincora were blocked by the Ministry of Defence and MI5.”
Former Labour Party MP Ken Livingstone said: “MI5 weren’t just aware of child abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home – they were monitoring it. They were getting pictures of a judge in one case, politicians, a lot of the Establishment of Northern Ireland going in and abusing these boys.”
East Belfast MP Naomi Long said: “We haven’t really dispelled the rumours surrounding the Kincora scandal. There are victims still around and they deserve justice.”
She said that given the remit of the Westminster inquiry, it was perhaps “a better vehicle,” for Kincora.
Information about the Kincora scandal and a possible link with one of Northern Ireland’s most infamous murders was revealed in files declassified by the Public Record Office last year.
Possible links between the murder of 10-year-old Brian McDermott in Belfast in 1973 and Kincora were discussed during a meeting in 1982 between Secretary of State Jim Prior and the Lord Chancellor and Attorney General, the files revealed.
The east Belfast schoolboy’s mutilated and burnt body was found in a sack in the River Lagan.
State papers: perjury that allowed suspect preacher to walk
Last year it was revealed the UK’s most senior legal figure was told that a former religious preacher involved in loyalist circles, who was a suspect in the Kincora abuse scandal, walked free because of perjured evidence.
In a private meeting, Attorney General Michael Havers and senior Government officials were briefed on the man’s links to the children’s home – and how a file on his case had been destroyed.
Update: Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, sister of the former Tory attorney general Sir Michael Havers, to lead UK child abuse inquiry
Three senior staff – William McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains – were jailed in 1981 for the abuse, but there have been suggestions of a mass cover-up by the Secret Service, which was rumoured to be protecting high-ranking paedophiles in the military, Civil Service and politics.
The scandal was referred to in several files released by the Public Record Office under the 30-year rule. However, the files have been redacted with key papers removed – while one file couldn’t be found.
One file contains a note of the private meeting in February 1982 attended by senior members of the political and legal establishment, including the Attorney General, Secretary of State Jim Prior, the Lord Chancellor Quintin Hogg and Sir William Bourne, a barrister and senior civil servant.
Just before the meeting, Mr Havers had spoken to the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland.
According to the memo, Mr Havers learned that the RUC was investigating three separate aspects of the Kincora affair.
“The first concerned a man… who in 1972 was falsely acquitted on the basis of perjured evidence; the file on his case has subsequently been destroyed by a bomb,” the memo reports.
Mr Havers was also told how the man may have withheld information on a notorious murder which took place nine years earlier.
The body of 10-year-old Brian McDermott was discovered in a sack in the River Lagan in September, 1973. No one was ever convicted of the killing. The meeting was told that the information provided “conflicted with what the RUC had previously told ministers and officials”.
The Kincora scandal first emerged in January 1980.
It was later claimed the RUC had been informed of the abuse at the home years earlier but did nothing. McGrath, who was leader of an obscure loyalist paramilitary group called Tara, was said to be on the payroll of MI5 and MI6.
A confidential Government note in the files said: “It is claimed that influence was brought to bear on the police not to pursue their enquiries.”
It added: “There are persistent rumours that ‘guilty men’ in high places have not been brought to justice.” The note concluded that it was unlikely the “vague rumours” would be substantiated.
UK independent inquiry
Yesterday it was announced that claims that sex abuse victims were betrayed by all sections of society – including the police, courts, the health service, schools and the BBC – are to be examined by a Hillsborough-style independent inquiry.
An expert panel will also have the power to scrutinise the behaviour of political parties, the security services and private companies amid allegations that paedophile networks operated with impunity in the 1970s and 1980s.
It is expected to receive a flood of new claims of an establishment cover-up of child abuse during those decades.
The panel will report on its interim findings ahead of the General Election next May in a move to reassure critics that the issue will not be pushed aside and forgotten. The moves were announced after David Cameron promised to “leave no stone unturned” to track down the abusers and find out how they went undetected for so long.
Details of the investigation were announced by Home Secretary Theresa May, who raised the possibility of converting it into a full public inquiry and giving the panel authority to subpoena witnesses.
One of the MPs who had pressed for an overarching inquiry has revealed she was the victim of sex abuse. Tessa Munt, the MP for Wells, told Radio 4’s PM programme: “I’m a survivor. This isn’t about me, it’s about the victims who are not in a position to be able to speak up and say for themselves that I’ve got my life back together, because some of these people will have been suffering for 50, 60, 70 years and we absolutely have to deal with this stuff.
“I had a period in my life which was not happy. I was the victim of sexual abuse but with the support of my family and friends I have dealt with that.”
Ms May promised the inquiry team would have the fullest access to Government papers, including classified documents where they did not affect national security.
The Home Secretary also made plain that political parties would be within the inquiry’s remit and said the panel’s composition and terms of reference would be set out shortly. She also announced a separate review into the Home Office’s handling of sex abuse allegations between 1979 and 1999.
Editor’s Viewpoint: We must know truth of Kincora
Kincora: Time we knew full truth of Belfast’s house of horrors  
MI5 ‘blocked exposure of Kincora sex abuse scandal’
Kincora Boy’s Home scandal: South African intelligence ‘secretly backed loyalist paramilitary group Tara’
Kincora Boys’ Home scandal: journalist Peter McKenna dies
State papers: The perjury that allowed Kincora suspect preacher to walk
Further reading
Questions over abuse inquiry choice 
Westminster child abuse dossier: Geoffrey Dickens also gave copy of file to top prosecutor Sir Thomas Hetherington – so why did DPP fail to act on evidence of paedophile ring? 
Historic child abuse files missing
Tory peer Lord Brittan defends handling of 1980s sex abuse dossier
Abuse claims police matter – Clegg
Abuse probe ‘into soul of society’
From the archives
Kincora: Sex racket at children’s home (Irish Independent, 1980)


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