Pressure is mounting for an urgent change in the law governing mental health after two paedophile brothers involved in a “tidal wave” of abuse refused to seek hospital treatment.
James and Owen Roe McDermott — who were accused of 19 child sex offences — had been told by the Western Health Trust to admit themselves to hospital for their own welfare.
But the predatory pair ignored the advice and are back living in the Co Fermanagh village of Donagh which they once terrorised.
As anger grows over their presence — with tensions evident at a public meeting in the village — it has emerged that the Assembly’s justice committee will meet a week early to discuss the case.
Between them, four McDermott brothers faced 60 charges of abuse spanning five decades. A third is in prison while the other committed suicide in the village graveyard. James and Owen Roe McDermott were allowed to return to Donagh after they were declared mentally unfit to go through a trial.
On Monday several hundred people including parents, victims and members of the extended McDermott family attended a public meeting.
It heard that discussions had been held with the McDermott family to see if the two brothers would go to hospital voluntarily for their own welfare and treatment.
The family took the request to the High Court, where the Trust was told it had no powers to force the brothers to leave.
The pair have returned to Donagh, and live with their two sisters at Moorlough Road — in full view of the village playground — which the meeting heard was the “worst place imaginable”.
Sinn Fein councillor Thomas O’Reilly, who attended the meeting, said people in Donagh wanted the McDermotts out of the village and he called for an urgent change in mental health law.
“A lot of people are very angry that the statutory agencies do not have the power to remove these people from the community,” he said.
“The legislation is key to this — the Mental Health Act has prevented a judge from removing them from the community.
“It needs changed and people are lobbying to try and get it changed.”
The chief executive of the Western Trust, Elaine Way, was also at the meeting, describing it as “very emotional”.
“There is an issue regarding changing legislation which requires further discussion at Department of Health and Department of Justice level,” she said.
“However, the Trust was able to clarify that as well as its responsibilities to provide therapy to the two brothers we wish to offer support to those who were survivors of abuse and to individual families and the community in terms of protecting their children.”
Justice committee chairman Lord Morrow denied that MLAs had been slow to bring about changes in the law.
“We don’t just want legislation, we want legislation that is robust enough to deal with this situation,” he said.