Are we slowly waking up to the pressing need to deal with child sexual abuse?

Something interesting is happening in the territory of child sexual abuse. The arrests over the last few days indicate a few rather disturbing patterns…

Police forces across the country have arrested 660 suspected paedophiles including doctors, teachers and former police officers in the biggest operation for more than ten years targeting online child abusers.

A junior paediatric doctor is among the suspects, who along with a second man, is suspected of having more than a million indecent images of children, according to details released by the National Crime Agency.

What’s especially disturbing is the inclusion of professions which play a crucial role in the prevention or detection of such crimes.

In the US it appears that whilst the net may be tempting people into criminal offences who would not previously have done so, it is also leading to a surge in the reporting of such crimes

As one contact who works in the field in Northern Ireland put it to Slugger last week, everyone is beginning to smell the coffee, but the question is do they really have an appetite to drink?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I doubt it. The IRA covered up a paedophile ring in the tiny Republican village of Donagh that involved four brother of the McDermott familiy. In addition to this there is Gerry’s antics in relation to protecting his brother so what chance is there of getting the truth in many of these cases??

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Joe_Hoggs, this is the problem of trying to talk about these things in very general statements. The IRA, as you are using it, is a reification! Any organisation is an abstraction in itself, and has no living existence independent of the actual persons who compose the organisation. The IRA has no ability to do things, which can only be done by its members. The Donagh paedophiles were persons who carried out abuse, and their membership of the IRA is only pertinent in that the broader membership of the organisation may have consciously connived at a cover up of their activities in some focused way. I would need to know who covered for them and just how far such a cover-up went to feel I could be justified in blameing an entire organisation, even one I have some personal distaste for. I feel, if only for consistencies sake, you must agree with me in this as you have been very clear over on other threads that the Orange Institution should not be blamed as an organisation for the behaviour of a minority of its members!

    I think that there can be very public displays of such connivence which implicates an individual, if only in the public eye. Personally, I find Adams speaking against the abuse of women and representing the face of Sinn Féin in this capacity utterly unacceptable after his suppression of knowledge of his niece Áine’s abuse. And I know many, many supporters of SF who also think this to be the case.

    Since the mid 1960s I have known a number of abuse victims, many from what would be called privileged backgrounds. The networks of people who did (and do) these vile things cannot be linked to any one political organisation, it is simply not a political issue in that sense! People are not abused by reifications, but by other people and for victims, being employed as pawns in someone else’s political concerns, is, in my estimation, a form of hijacking of their terrible, sometimes life-crippling experiences for personal goals, and is not rather an echo of what was done to them in the first place?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    One of the leading representatives of the IRA (Adams) although denying actual membership was responsible for covering up the abuse his brother carried out.
    As for Donagh, I’m not sure that the brothers in question were members of the IRA, however the IRA control Donagh as they do other towns in Fermanagh such as Derrylin as witnessed by all the attacks on the properties once owned by Sean Quinn. My point here is that Catholics were intimidated by the IRA into not going to the police about the abuse of the McDermott brothers that went on for decades. The hurt caused to this village because of the cover up and threat from the IRA was as bad as any bomb.

  • mickfealty


    Can we try to stick to the implication for policy here, rather than making it ‘personal’…

  • Joe_Hoggs

    My point is Mick that when there is a cover-up partially carried out by some in power, there is very little hope of any proper policy in this area.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Joe_Hoggs, if you have followed my postings on Slugger for any time you’d know that my indignation against Adams has had many, many, many airings. I believe that the entire credibility of SF to speak on these issues of sexual abuse and on any womens issues is profoundly compromised by Adams continuance as leader. But I also know many supporters and quite a few members who share my own desire that these issues should become entirely transparent across our community. I fully agree that the truth needs to come out in its entirety, but everywhere, and not simply as in a game of political advantage.

    I know Fermanagh very well, having centuries long connections with south Fermanagh, where an ancestor of mine held plantation land. So I know the village of Donagh. But then every rural community in the province seems to have a degree of connivance between local paramilitaries and every form of vested interest that may see themselves as benefiting from such a connection. Its pretty much a general culture of “you help me, I help you”, that appears to permeate everything everywhere to some degree in both rural and urban communities, and is very far from unique to the IRA. So simply “getting” the IRA for it might just shift the “blind eyeing” to another expression of a “helpful” power base. Although I agree that we need a society where such connivance cannot continue to be be anonymous.

    Civil society should in theory burn away these vestiges of small scale privilege that crudely ape the behaviour and mores of that elite privilege that is currently being exposed as conniving at, by ignoring such knowledge as might come their way, paedophile activity in high (and low) places. But always, always, the real needs of those people who haves suffered should come first.

  • carl marks


    I was going to ask you to prove the IRA control villages (wonderfully twisted route to
    blame the Donagh case on the IRA), but then I thought if the man can take as an
    important subject as the safety of our children and turn it into a anti republican
    rant then who am I to get in his way.

    We are only seeing the tip of a very nasty iceberg; I doubt any group, organisation or profession
    is going to walk away from this smelling of roses and I doubt that any church
    will escape blame.

    The only two things that matter are;

    A, is the methods being used to investigate these matters fit for purpose, will they produce the truth and will the accused go to court.

    B, have we guaranteed that it is not happening now and will not happen in the future.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Its frankly shameful to try and make political capital out of such life destroying acts. I am, however, concerned that this becomes a witch hunt driven on by the media.

  • Joe_Hoggs


    I realise that abuse goes above and beyond any one organisation, however whenever the said abuse was institutionalised and those forming part of the cover up will be tasked with bringing forward legislation – one would question how effective or indeed genuine it will be.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Not only do I follow your posts, I hold you in the highest regard even though our views will never correlate.
    In relation to Donagh it’s well known there and the surrounding areas that the IRA did cover up this abuse and prevented people from going to the police. This is one of the terrible legacies of the conflict. I am surprised that no vigilante tactic was used against the McDermotts here by the IRA or is it only the dissidents that carry out such acts?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sergiogiorgio, if you had known some of those who have suffered from being ignored by the media for, sometimes, twenty years, you might think a witch-hunt is long overdue! I know of people who wrote letters to crusading journalists thirty years back about Cyril Smith. No one wanted to know, they never replied. Uncorroborated evidence, you see, and a culture of famous people crying witch-hunt to their friends and acquaintances well before anything ever went anywhere further than the club or the pub.

    The media comes out of this very badly in my estimation, if only because of what I’ve been told by victims about how hard they attempted to be heard. But I can understand the high palisade of possible legal action for defamation bulked large. Even the dead are still protected by this as defamation of a father or mother may reflect on their offspring, and the burden of proof is still so high that I know of quite a few who still do not trust that they would be listened to seriously.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sorry Mick that’s me getting very, very angry about something I’ve watched being silenced for forty years. Some of my family in England were strong and long-term Liberal supporters before one kid was offered a lift by Cyril Smith. Afterwards, when we began to talk to others (this is “elite” victims, not those in the boys hostels) the apparent impunity with which he (and others) could continue cutting a swathe across any number of victims seemed utterly inexplicable. Lots came up while I was in the film world, too, including Saville.

    But I will try and think “policy”, and not let my indignation at those I know of who may never, ever be named deflect me from the whole point of your essay.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Joe, I know of all to many similar “domestic issues” (terminology makes you sick, does it not? That was a 1970s description I once heard…) here and in England, but I entirely agree with you that it is obscene to think that nothing, notheng at all, was done.

  • Tacapall

    There is no doubt this issue is being used by the government to usher in new “Big brother is watching you” rules for the internet, if and when this happens we can all say goodbye to truth and history for those who come after us. This government is one of the most draconian governments for decades who regularly use “National security, D notices, or4 just plain old fashioned turning a blind eye and refusing to look at their own seedy past connections to sleaze and child abuse. They can publise all they like about how they have arrested doctors, lawyers, etc etc but the truth is politicians are the most prolific child abusers and this government and the British establishment has attempted to brush under the carpet its own seedy role in allowing children to be abused.

    I could post up the names of British politicians charged and convicted of child abuse but the list is way too big.

    Dont take my word for it see for yourself ––sex-offenders.html

  • Joe_Hoggs

    It’s terrible, were you a victim of such abuse?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Not myself, but I’ve been close to some who were. Seeing what harm it does to anyone involved, no matter what their background, is one of the things that motivates me to hope that at last some of those with some ability to do something are actually trying to push their way up the hill against the heavy weight of indifference at the top. I think Simon Danczuk is something of a hero for how carefully he is trying to peal away the lies. Those who knew and did nothing, whether for their party, for the establishment, for their careers, or even to just to keep open their invitations to “normal”parties with the great and good involved, although they will never be exposed, but as with Adams, each and every one is culpable for the inability of those affected to ever trust anyone ever again. For me, these ruined lives, the product of someones few minutes, or years, of ‘fun” makes many of our own political preoccupations fall into perspective.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Sean – I thank God I haven’t experienced what you quite clearly have a deep understanding off. It’s abhorrent the people driving the narrative now are the same media outlets you believe ignored the historical plea’s of the victims. The irony should not be lost on anyone.

  • Sean Healy

    Carol Shakeshaft was commissioned by the American government to investigate sexual abuse in government controlled schools.

    The level of abuse and under-reporting is staggering. For example, in one city, Boston, 5 children are sexually abused each week by government officials. 5 last week, 5 this week, 5 next week……….. and yet nobody talks about it.

  • Mister_Joe

    Quite shocking to see some of the offences for which many of these politicians were convicted and I personally think some of the sentences seemed to be too lenient. On the other hand, there are a few which I think are fairly minor relating to “voluntary” prostitution and wonder if that could lessen the impact of the “outing”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “The irony should not be lost on anyone.” Not on anyone who has experienced it and approached the press at the time. Even close journalist friends of someone I know as a victim from the 1980s, a very balanced credible witness, told her to simply forget about it and get on with her life, but only after extracting the details.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks, Tacapall, for the list. Its made up of those with actual convictions, I note. It’s amazing on one level that they still want to have a public profile in politics, on another, it does not surprise me in the least. But the higher up the greasy pole you look the more difficult it is to make even the most evident abuse allegations stick. Such people can use their position to claim a form of “immunity” through the early deployment of contacts across a whole range of influential professions from amongst those who owe them favours for other things, and as a last resort, lawyers who can show the victim just how hard it is to actually prove abuse by taking them to court. The more “privileged” victim knows where these tricks are coming from early on, and can see they stand no chance of success, the others who are not from the same background as their abuser get even more chewed up in their efforts to be simply heard. “He is guilty, is he not, they even told me they’d heard all the stories about him from others, so they can’t just tell me it did not happen the way I told them?” as one abused guy asked me in the early eighties. Oh yes they can!

    I note that most of those posted in the list and of the 660 mentioned above are being caught over physical evidence on computers. I’m glad that this has been able to expose some of the abusers, but fear that others may learn to be more careful and organise so as not to create such obvious leave trails of evidence in future. Their “betters” are more savvy and rely in situations of actual abuse, on “their word against mine” situations, where they can later claim they are being targeted because they have more to loose than their accusers. Such uncorroborated cases (especially as they may actually involve a falsely accused person) are almost impossible to make stick in a prospective prosecution. That is why Saville and others were able to escape for so long despite all the rumours that everyone (at least everyone I knew) appeared to have heard. Executives at the BBC, for example, who had heard the rumours and wished to act on them might have been counter-accused of unfair behaviour, or even sued for harming the abusers reputation by their actions.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Joe, Mick, I’d fully agree. I tried to cover in another reply just why, with most of those in important positions are already sussed out about law and the media, its almost impossible for actual abuse situations involving anyone with real power and with powerful connections to ever surface. They already know all the defensive moves from tehir everyday lives.

    I know of a few people in the Commons who seem to be strongly motivated to open this all up to transparency, but its very much a “Fiat justitia ruat caelum” situation if not only the perpetrators but those who had any knowledge of the names of abusers (and could have done something) were pointed out in this. And, as Joe says, these are the people who will probably have some involvement in framing policy. Just more “vae victis” is what I’d expect for anyone attempting to out anyone really important, living or dead!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Carl, I’ve watched the effect on several friends who were victims over a long term. “The methods used to investigate these matters” have to assemble any possible prosecution using the key rules of evidence as defined at present. This means that much of the evidence that a victim can offer can be construed as either irrelevant or inadmissible on legal technicalities. You ask for the methods of investigation to be able to produce the truth, well the “truth” and “admissible or relevant evidence” are two very, very different things. So yes, what you ask for in (A) is what we should get, but as things stand, it is very unlikely.

    As I’ve said in other postings above, any experienced abuser, certainly any who is a engaged in any of “professions which play a crucial role in the prevention or detection of such crimes” knows all the tricks to avoid giving a witness any serious credibility under the rules of evidence already. The higher up such an abuser has reached in political status/key professions, the more they are owed favours from their networks, and this means pressure can be exerted on anyone attempting to investigate. The kind of pressure that can be put on the unwilling can be virtually anything. Just an example from just outside the paedophile networks. I heard of a very devout Christian film-maker in Soho using his bank of professional video machines to produce porn videos in the 1980s because a criminal group had bought out some big debts he had incurred and could utterly ruin him and his young family. You do not actually have to be sympathetically complicit with these people to be used, simply to be vulnerable to pressure.

    “B, have we guaranteed that it is not happening now and will not happen in the future.” And that no crime of any sort will ever again occur anywhere in the world! We live in a narcissistic culture where what we each want comes first over the needs of the vulnerable usually. This shades from “acceptable” abuses such as simple lying for advantage, through loan day rates of interest to the now unacceptable abuses such as paedophilia. But this too was mooted as an “acceptable possibility” not so long ago. There was a big push in the 1970s to legalise paedophilia supported by some in human rights organisations. “What’s especially disturbing is the inclusion of professions which play a crucial role in the prevention or detection of such crimes.” But how many of these people or their circles of friends or colleagues actually feel, even now, that they are really doing wrong?

  • Mister_Joe

    And now our esteemed First Minister is threatening the inquiry process if he doesn’t get his way on a separate matter. Seems a bit “down and dirty”.

  • Roy Walsh

    Frankly folks this a matter transcending religion!
    There was child abuse in Catholic institutions throughout Ireland, there was child abuse, again tolerated in state run institutions throughout Ireland.
    The purpose of the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry is to permit those who suffered, and continue to do so decades after, to tell their story and, hopefully, seek some financial sum which will enable them to be in a slightly better place.
    I have worked, representing young men who were in Kincora, I have worked with young people who were in other institutions and have assisted them in approaching the HIA team.
    The sooner the cover up of abusers, and senior management in these institutions, including voluntary sector organisations is told, the sooner those who suffered can attempt recovery from their life sentences.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Frankly folks this a matter transcending religion!” Thank you, Roy! And beyond either tradition or political alignment. As someone else said “left and right wing in this are just the two wings of the same vulture.” It goes beyond any single “side” and abusers are more than willing to cross the lines to secure themselves and others.

    It should always come down to those who experienced the abuse, who did not experience it as collectives, but as individuals. Its the sufferers who need to be heard and given some sense that the rest of us are with them, rather than supporting their ( sometimes, as media or political personalities, much admired) abusers or simply indifferent to their experiences. I know of all too many survivors who will never trust anyone ever again.

  • Roy Walsh

    Seaan, the fact is, the ‘dirty old man’ is not the old bloke who used to stand master bating at the top of Windsor Ave. watching the wee lassies from Princess Gardens going home, only!
    It is also the ordinary person, yes females are involved too, who none of us would suspect.
    My point also implicates senior management of State, church and voluntary institutions who sat on their hands and failed in their legal, and moral duties to the children in their care.
    As above, these victims go on to suffer lifetimes of flashbacks, nightmares and self harm, the key is to get the state, which through ignoring what they were told, often deliberately, to pay.
    The parents who pimped their daughter, the so called professionals who ignored the pleadings of young men who later killed themselves, the ‘men’ who paid for the services of these children, the senior management, many still alive and enjoying excellent pensions and partaking in quangos and semi-state boards, must all be brought to book, to quote one former British prime minister, a crime is a crime is a crime. If so, let’s see the police investigate the allegations, pass files to PPS and have the Court’s do their jobs.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Roy, I’ve had an instance with Cyril Smith and one of my once strong Liberal supporting cousins, that really opened my eyes to how impossible it was to get anyone to listen. So I’m all too familiar with everything you are saying, have been since the early 1970s. When they realised I was not dismissive and knew the score, some of the people I knew in the film and theatre world shared their experiences, and quite a few friends from what would be called “elite” backgrounds, because the cannibal urge of the abusers (quite a few of them well known public figures) were not that “class conscious” about who they groomed. Anyone vulnerable, of any class, really! So “The parents who pimped their daughter, the so called professionals who ignored the pleadings of young men who later killed themselves, the ‘men’ who paid for the services of these children” I’ve come across many instances myself, and if I’m reading you (you seem as enraged as I am) you too know of the gross indifference anyone trying to report or even discuss the experience with someone professional could all too often meet with. That or a writ of libel, if the survivor came from a “privileged” family who were susceptible to the fear of serious protracted court action against the well connected and famous.

    My real concern, and you’ll have come across this yourself, is for those survivors who are unable to prove anything (their uncorroborated word against the oh so careful abuser, because that’s the way the law works). So a crime may be a crime, but even the dead can seemingly deploy contacts to stop the PPS from getting anywhere. I’ve come across numerous names of well known ‘abusers” some even dead that have yet to be outed in the media. Check my other posts for my feelings on this!

  • Roy Walsh

    As you Seaan will know, and this is an issue which policy will need address, those survivors who have been able to survive to adulthood might not be able, or willing, to come forward, ‘outing’ themselves for fear of embarrassing themselves especially or their families.
    Some form of confidentiality for abuse victims is necessary, and, in my experience also for alleged perpetrators ’til charged after investigation, so permitting discovery of the truth.
    Good on Clint Massey for coming forward, others require some additional support.
    Equally, there is the need to support some who will be falsely accused, a matter which has happened in Ireland several times in the past few years, providing them the means to recover and hence the need for confidentiality above. Again, this is a policy matter, one our overpaid councillors in Dundonald should be addressing instead of joining the previously mentioned hand sitters.
    The HIA requires additional time, resources and support from politicians, police, the British government to procure the evidence which can be used to address the issue and then we must support those survivors.
    This is a justice issue, as much as those relating to the conflict, or rather, an injustice issue requiring the same amount of effort on all our parts.
    Write please to your MLA’s to tell them to provide these resources rather than threaten the process.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Could not agree more, Roy, although long experience has shown me just how little may be done within our legal system as it stands today. Those very changes that have been developed to quite properly protect the innocent from false charges have been honed by abusers and their legal representation to ensure that the careful have virtual immunity from prosecution.

    Being in the media world has shown me that Saville and Cyril Smith were far from unique. And I note that the 660 arrests mentioned by Mick were using strong evidence from computer files that should ensure prosecutions have a good chance of success. The sussed up long term abuser with “dependable” political contacts who have real clout still looks virtually immune to prosecution to me, even now. I have been told by direct sufferers of a wide range of famous names, some dead, whose activities were common knowledge, but I cannot imagine that any of them will ever be brought to justice.

    “The parents who pimped their daughter, the so called professionals who ignored the pleadings of young men who later killed themselves, the ‘men’ who paid for the services of these children, the senior management, many still alive and enjoying excellent pensions and partaking in quangos and semi-state boards, must all be brought to book,” but how? With good legal representation and circles of friends already complicit from years of choosing to see the grooming of vulnerable adolescents as a fringe of “sexual liberation” I really cannot see these people having much to fear.

    “Write please to your MLA’s to tell them to provide these resources rather than threaten the process.” But have you checked Tacapall’s link on these threads? The one thing this is beginning to clearly expose is that no one within the system can be entirely trusted. You just do not know who they may owe political or social favours to. As Yeats said, “What if the Church and the State/Are the mob who howls at the door?”

  • Roy Walsh

    In the first instance persistent agreement may upset others.
    Excellent quote from WB. My own advice is, use those contacts to write a script on the perpetrators, how position was used to access vulnerable young people and make a dramadoc on the subject, such is more difficult to escape for those who try.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Good idea Roy, although it will probably join the nine out of ten film proposals that get a bit of seed money and then die without trace. As a bit of an old “Irish Ireland” non-coloborationist (Ghandi was one too, learnt it from an Antrim Road man, James Cousins) I’ve so far just tried to help anyone I know of on the personal level, with the fact that someone simply believes them making a lot of difference. A really sympathetic hearing is a bit of a rarity, even now. Most people are very judgemental about the effect that the experience has had on most survivors. One of the ploys I’d not mentioned above is to use the hard depression and rages any surviver may fall into as clear signs that they are unstable. This is much used if anything comes to court.

    And, jaded as I am with the politicians, I’ve come across a few whose sincerity even I’d trust myself. So let us hope for some change at last. And every luck with your own efforts to help.