Belfast Telegraph

Kincora: Pressure grows for boys' home to be part of inquiry

By Liam Clarke

The Kincora Boys' Home sex abuse scandal first came to public attention in 1980 when an Irish Independent article alleged "an official cover-up of the recruitment of boys at a Belfast children's home for homosexual prostitution".

The notorious east Belfast facility was home to 168 boys aged 15 to 18 between 1963 and 1968.

It has been claimed that people of the "highest profile" were connected to abuse at the home and there have long been claims of a cover-up to protect senior establishment figures linked to the home.

Gerry Fitt, then the Independent Socialist MP for West Belfast, raised the issue in Westminster. A police investigation quickly ensued and as a result three members of staff at the home, William McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains, were jailed for systematic sexual abuse of children in their care going back to the early 70s. The other allegations of a paedophile ring were not sustained by the police – but never went away either.

It quickly emerged that William McGrath, the most brutal of the abusers, was the leader of a loyalist paramilitary group known as Tara. McGrath had been a British intelligence source since he smuggled Bibles into Russia in the 1940s.

Colin Wallace and John Gemmell, both captains in military intelligence in the early 70s, have since revealed that they tried to expose the abuse ring but were frustrated by Ian Cameron, an MI5 officer based here at that time.

Mr Wallace was hounded from his job and wrongly convicted of manslaughter after repeatedly raising the issue. He was later acquitted of the manslaughter charge.

James Miller, an MI5 informant within Tara, also raised concerns about the abuse but was warned off by his handlers, and Roy Garland, another member of Tara at the time, reported McGrath as an abuser to both the police and the Army.

Mr Wallace and others have alleged that abuse at Kincora was covered up for intelligence purposes and may be linked to abuse elsewhere in the UK which is shortly to be investigated in a Home Office inquiry.

There is a local inquiry into institutional abuse but the judge leading it, Anthony Hart, has said he lacks the powers to deal with possible intelligence involvement.

In announcing the UK investigation, Home Secretary Theresa May raised the possibility of converting it into a full public inquiry and giving the panel authority to subpoena witnesses.

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.

The new UK-wide inquiry does have the power to demand access to secret files.

There have been growing calls for Kincora to be included in the national inquiry into historical abuse. First Minister Peter Robinson and Amnesty International's Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan have both called for Kincora to be part of that inquiry. Mr Corrigan said: "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.

"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."

Information about the Kincora scandal and a possible connection with one of Northern Ireland's most infamous murders was revealed in files declassified by the Public Record Office last year. The files showed 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.

It is feared that there were many more victims and abusers before the home closed in 1980.

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