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‘Political hijack’ of meeting with abuse victims sparks row

By Clare Weir

Some of the victims of sexual abuse by four brothers in Donagh withdrew from a meeting with Justice Minister David Ford yesterday because it had been “politically hijacked”.

The meeting, planned by six of the victims, was being held to discuss changes to mental health legislation after James and Owen Roe McDermott were not sentenced in connection with 19 child sex offences spanning several decades, as they were declared mentally unfit to stand trial.

Between them, the McDermott brothers, from Moorlough Road in Donagh, faced 60 charges of abuse spanning five decades.

John McDermott was jailed for nine years in June for the abuse, Peter Paul McDermott took his own life during his trial, while James and Owen Roe, were given lifetime orders banning them from being with children, and a two-year treatment and supervision order placing them in the care of Social Services.

There was anger last month after it emerged that they had moved back to their own home in Donagh, the village where the abuse took place and close to schools, playgrounds and the homes of their victims and their victims’ families.

Fermanagh/South Tyrone Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew attended the meeting, as well as a Sinn Féin councillor for the area, Ruth Lynch. This upset two members of the group who have decided not to take part in the meeting. A statement passed to the BBC said: “We vehemently resent the involvement of political representatives without our permission.

“We feel that this meeting would be much better handled by the victims and without any political interference. The last thing the victims and the community wants is for the whole matter to be turned into a political football.”

Mr Ford told the Belfast Telegraph: “This is a private meeting and a private matter and I am not prepared to comment on it.”

Ms Gildernew described the meeting as “frank and forthright”.

Although the victims are meeting the Justice Minister, mental health and Social Services are the responsibility of the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.

Following the trial, the Health Minister said he intended to change the Mental Health Order and plans are ongoing to investigate alterations to existing laws.

A DHSSPS spokesperson said: “Preparatory work on new mental capacity and mental health legislation is unde rway and will include redefining the term ‘mental disorder’.

“It is not possible to give an indication of when the result of review of legislation is likely.”

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