‘The Church has failed me’

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A young Derry man whose allegations of sexual abuse rocked the Catholic Church in the city to the core almost 20 years ago claims despite all the publicity and promises at the time by senior clergy to clean up the mess nothing has come of it.

The man, now in his 40’s, says a team leader at St Eugene’s Youth Club in the Bogside in the 1980’s seriously abused him and, at least, twenty other boys - he thinks the numbers involved are actually much higher, possibly as many as 50 - but it has all been covered up. The team leader involved has since died.

Speaking this week the man told former ‘Journal’ editor Pat McArt he felt the damage done to his psyche by the huge mental and emotional anguish he went through on going to the media and making public his claims had not been worth it.

He said: “The youth leader who abused me and the others is dead now but he’s left a trail of devastation. I, personally, told four priests about him. As far as I’m aware three of those priests are still alive and working in the diocese. I know one has since left the priesthood. What went on was certainly made known to the senior clergy in this town by me and others.

“I told you, and it was a massive big story in the Journal and it got headlines on the television. But nothing has happened. They (the Catholic Church) closed down St Eugene’s but never told the people why. The whole emphasis was to protect the church and its institutions and, in my opinion, to hell with those abused.”

The man named the four priests mentioned.

Responding yesterday Derry Diocesan spokesperson Fr. Michael Canny said they would advise this man to go directly to the PSNI with any information that he has so that those guilty of the offences he has outlined are brought to justice.”

He added: “If he doesn’t want to do that, we would ask that he contact our Diocesan Safe Guarantee Person at 071-362475 and she will do it for him.”

The man also said that, much later, inside the last six years, he reported a second person to Social Services for paedophilic activities but again nothing happened, as far as he was aware. He said this man had been involved with the Western Education and Library Board and regularly took young people away on summer camps.

“This man tried to groom me; I know that now. He told me he knew what [the man connected to St. Eugene’s, now dead] was doing and that he was involved in the same thing. One day he locked me in an old hut that used to be in the grounds of Templemore Sports Complex and told me, ‘This is where I do my business’, but by that stage I had got the courage to tell him I would smash his face in if he tried anything. Eventually he unlocked the door and let me out.”

Our informant said this man and the abuser from St Eugene’s were both involved in trips which took kids from Derry on trips out of town for overnight stays. Knowing the two men involved he had no doubt they took full advantage.

Asked why he didn’t report it to the police, he said back then Catholics didn’t go to the RUC. This was not an option for a strongly Catholic/nationalist family like his.

But even had there been an acceptable police force at the time he wouldn’t have been able to do it anyway: “I was so broken at the time both mentally and emotionally my dad told me there was no point in going to any authorities, that I wouldn’t be strong enough to handle either a police investigation or a court case. I took his advice.”

So why is he speaking out now?

“I became suicidal over the years. I can only thank God I never acted on those thoughts. I developed a massive alcoholism problem. My marriage broke up. My children are gone from my house. My life has been a mess.

“I’m angry no one has done anything to help me.

“But for Nexus [the sexual abuse organisation] I fear to think what would have become of me. I started going for counselling there about eight years ago and that is what got me back my sanity and my life.”