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Police hand over 26 boxes of secret files as Kincora abuse investigation opens

Panel told they will have to consider claims of State-sponsored child prostitution

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 01/06/2016

Sir Anthony Hart during the hearing in Banbridge
Sir Anthony Hart during the hearing in Banbridge
Victims campaigner Margaret McGuckin and Kincora survivor Clint Massey arrive at court yesterday
The former boys’ home

Hundreds of secret police documents about Kincora Boys' Home have been declassified and handed over to a public inquiry, a lawyer has revealed.

Some 26 boxes were retrieved from PSNI archives and given to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA).

Barrister Joseph Aiken, counsel to the HIA, said: "When the inquiry began, this was all marked secret. At the request of the inquiry, it has all been declassified and made available."

It has long been claimed that a paedophile ring preyed on vulnerable young boys at the care home during the 1970s.

It is further alleged the UK security services knew about the abuse but did nothing to stop it, instead using the information to blackmail powerful predators said to include politicians.

The HIA, chaired by retired High Court Judge Sir Anthony Hart, is investigating whether there were systemic failings by state bodies including the RUC, MI5, MI6, the Northern Ireland Office and social services.

Mr Aiken said: "Although it is an established fact that children were abused by staff in Kincora, this inquiry has to address a range of allegations, not that the State failed to prevent abuse because of missed opportunities, but that it with deliberation and planning it cynically orchestrated and utilised the abuse of children to further its own ends.

"If true, that would mean those who had the privilege and responsibility of protecting citizens compounded the pain of those who suffered.

"If the allegations are no more than rumours and suspicion, they have the effect of heaping further unnecessary misery on the victims of abuse in Kincora."

Kincora opened on east Belfast's Upper Newtownards Road, close to Stormont's Parliament Buildings, in May 1958 and closed in October 1980 in the aftermath of the sex abuse scandal.

In 1981, three senior care workers were jailed. One of them, William McGrath, was believed to be an MI5 agent.

The inquiry was shown a previously secret Army intelligence file in which McGrath was described as an "intelligent though devious man who needs extremely careful handling". He could be a potential "mine" of useful information, the document stated.

It also emerged that McGrath first came to the attention of the RUC at a political rally in 1966, and that by 1973 Special Branch believed he was the leader of a extremist Protestant organisation and was retaining members by threatening to expose homosexual activity he had initiated.

Mr Aiken said the name Kincora had become synonymous with allegations of prolonged child abuse and cover-up and that some of the material produced by the inquiry would be "difficult and embarrassing" for individuals and institutions.

"If it is the case that the State, whether in the guise of the police, intelligence agencies or otherwise, did connive, orchestrate, utilise, exploit or cover up sexual abuse at Kincora, those facts should be laid bare," he added.

The barrister told the three-person inquiry panel it would have to consider claims of State-sponsored child prostitution, paedophile rings, blackmail and cover-ups and whether or not the former head of MI6 had abused youngsters.

He said: "You will also have to consider the claim that the former head of the Secret Intelligence Service, Sir Maurice Oldfield, while being the head of the intelligence network in Northern Ireland, and doing that job at the request of the then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, abused boys in Kincora."

Campaigners had hoped to have Kincora included in the nationwide child abuse probe chaired by New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard because the HIA does not have the power to compel witnesses.

But a legal challenge to overturn the Government's refusal was rejected as "premature" by a High Court judge last month. An appeal was also turned down.

In his opening address, Sir Anthony said his inquiry had "full and voluntary" cooperation from all relevant government departments and agencies.

However, a number of key individuals, including former unionist Roy Garland and ex-Army intelligence operatives Brian Gemmell and Colin Wallace, have declined to give evidence.

"While it is for them to decide whether they wish to give evidence in person, we regret that they have adopted this position because this is their opportunity to describe in person and in public their experiences in Kincora," Sir Anthony explained.

Former Kincora residents are expected to take to the witness stand next week.

Outside the court, Clint Massey, who spent eight months in Kincora aged 16, said he was hopeful the HIA could expose the truth about the home.

"I will have my day in the sun," he added. "I am hopeful this time. I am hearing good things in the courtroom. They do seem to have the authority to get dossiers from various departments and that gives me hope."

The HIA is now in its 15th and final module.

By the time it concludes public evidence sessions in July, more than 450 witnesses will have provided oral testimony.

Sir Anthony is expected to submit his findings on the home to MLAs at Stormont by early next year.

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