Belfast Telegraph

Flatten scout hall where we suffered abuse, plead the victims of pervert

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

Victims of paedophile scout master Colin Finnegan want the hall where their years of abuse took place destroyed.

The four men hope to rebuild their lives now that Finnegan (44) is behind bars in Magillian Prison.

Last week he was jailed for 11 years for 59 sexual offences against them.

One of the evil Co Armagh man's victims has offered to pay for the demolition of the parish property of St Peter's and St Paul's Church, Bessbrook.

The 36-year-old has not been able to attend the Catholic church for years as the derelict scout hall – where most of Finnegan's sickening sexual assaults against young boys in his care took place – is close to it and the adjacent graveyard.

He has received a letter from Cardinal Sean Brady saying that the demolition of the scout hall was a "complex matter" and that he would need to consult further.

The Church leader sympathised for the "great hurt and terrible wrong done" and wished him "complete recovery and healing".

According to the man, a married father-of-three, a community petition to the Archdiocese of Armagh to ask for the property to be razed is also being considered.

Finnegan was a member of the Bessbrook unit of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland from the 1980s, and carried out 15 years of abuse.

He knew his victims both as a volunteer in the scout unit, but also, in some cases, as a trusted family friend and neighbour.

Because of the nature of the abuse and the strong influence that Finnegan had in the community, no victim felt able to report their anguish.

Yesterday John Lawlor, chief executive of Scouting Ireland, stressed: "Colin Finnegan was never a leader in Scouting Ireland.

"No reports of abuse were received until 2011. Scouting Ireland welcomes and respects the recent findings of the court and we deeply regret that abuse of young people took place."

Finnegan's eldest victim said he was angry that the pervert was left in sole charge of the group, which had dozens of members.

The 39-year-old claims that Finnegan had complete autonomy of the group from 1991-2001.

He said: "It was virtually a sweetie shop for him to do what he wanted, when he wanted."

These two victims claim more were abused by him.

At least three other men from the area have come forward to them as victims.

The 36-year-old man said: "We know there are others and we urge them to come forward, either to get support or to get justice.

"We want to keep Finnegan in prison, where he belongs, where he should have been years ago."

Both men are overwhelmed by the support and goodwill they have received from their families.

They plan to start up a support group to help male victims of child sexual abuse.

One man appealed to victims: "I would say, tell your story, somehow find the courage to tell your truth, and eventually the truth will shine through."

BACKGROUND

Colin Finnegan (44) was a youth member of the Bessbrook unit of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland in the 1980-90s.

He was sentenced to 11 years at Belfast Crown Court on November 27 for 59 sexual assaults on four men which started when they were aged nine to their mid-teens.

Two trials this year in Newry collapsed for legal reasons.

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