Belfast Telegraph

Ed Murray: Sex abuse claim US mayor's time in Northern Ireland 'should be probed'

By Suzanne Breen

Amnesty International is asking the PSNI to examine police records to see if any allegations have been made here against a US politician at the centre of historic child sex abuse claims.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who resigned yesterday after a fifth sex abuse allegation was made against him, worked with children in a peaceline project in Belfast at the height of the Troubles.

An investigation by the Belfast Telegraph can exclusively reveal that, in 1974, he brought a group of 30 Catholic and Protestant children on a fortnight's holiday to Wales.

A cousin came forward earlier this week to accuse him of sexually abusing him in the mid-1970s just after he returned to the US from Belfast. Others who have previously made allegations include Mr Murray's former foster son.

With family roots reportedly in Co Down and in the Republic, the Democrat was a highly regarded Irish-American politician. He met former Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins on a visit to Ireland in 2014.

Mr Murray (62) strongly denies all the allegations of abusing teenage boys. He said he was resigning because he did not want "personal issues" interfering with "public business".

He worked with several children's groups in the US before he entered politics. The claims against him date from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s.

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan last night said the allegations raised serious concerns. He called on the PSNI and Mr Murray's former employer here to examine their records to see if any complaints were ever made about him.

"As things stand, Mr Murray has not been found guilty of any charges. However, the fact that the latest allegations of child abuse date from a period just after Mr Murray returned from Belfast, where he was apparently working with children, will raise concerns about his time in Northern Ireland," Mr Corrigan said.

"The organisation which employed Mr Murray in Belfast should check their records and provide full disclosure of his time here. They should also advise the PSNI of whether any allegations were made against him at the time."

Mr Corrigan said it was important "to establish accurate dates and details of his time in Belfast so that any potential victims from this period have a chance to come forward to police and to seek any support they may require".

He urged the PSNI to check police records to establish if there were any outstanding allegations from that time.

"Obviously, if there are reasons to suspect criminal activity, the PSNI should launch their own investigation. Meanwhile, Mr Murray must be considered innocent until and unless a court of law finds differently," he said.

The resignation of Mr Murray, Seattle's first openly gay mayor, came into effect at 5pm yesterday.

"While the allegations against me are not true, it is important that my personal issues do not affect the ability of our City government to conduct the public's business. It is best for the city if I step aside," he said.

In media interviews after becoming mayor in 2014 he referred to his Irish roots, saying: "If I hadn't entered politics, I might have lived in Ireland."

He spoke of working as a peaceline volunteer and also helping arrange a Seattle-Lisburn sister-city relationship years later. In an interview during his visit to the Republic in 2014, he said: "I first came to Ireland 40 years ago in 1974 when I graduated from high school. I was working in a volunteer programme in Belfast.

"I was really skinny and I had a lot of thick, red hair and I was arrested on a pretty regular basis by the British Army just because …. I looked 'Irish' or something."

A US document obtained by the Belfast Telegraph outlines some of Mr Murray's work in Northern Ireland but doesn't name the organisation employing him.

"He went to Ireland for one year working on the reconciliation program sponsored by American and Dutch Catholic groups," it states.

"This program was youth oriented, attempts to get Catholic and Protestant together."

Reference is made to Mr Murray taking 30 children on a fortnight's holiday to Wales. The American returned to the US following the death of his mother in late 1974.

In 1975, he lived with relatives in New York where his younger cousin Joseph Dyer now says Mr Murray sexually abused him. It is alleged that the abuse took place while the older man shared a bedroom with the 13-year-old.

Mr Dyer claimed that his cousin had showed him a rubber bullet he'd picked up in Northern Ireland.

Mr Murray has denied the sex abuse allegation by his younger cousin.

He said there had been bitter fighting between the two families for many years and "I guess they see me down and out, and they want to finish me off".

In 1984, Mr Murray's foster son Jeff Simpson alleged he had abused him from the age of 13 in Portland, Oregan, where Mr Murray - then a paralegal - had worked as a counsellor to troubled children.

The Seattle Times, which has reported extensively on the allegations against Mr Murray, revealed that the teenager, a Portland detective and an Oregan Child Protective Services case worker had all testified before a grand jury.

Criminal charges were never brought. According to documents obtained by the newspaper, a prosecutor decided not to go ahead with the case due to the teenager's troubled personality.

But she added: "This is no way means that the District Attorney's Office has decided that Jeff's allegations are not true."

Three other men have publicly accused Murray of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers. The politician has attacked their credibility and suggested that the claims are politically motivated.

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