Belfast Telegraph

Four women claim ex-principal John McElholm abused them while pupils at Co Fermanagh school

Victims allege the abuse was an "open secret" in Irvinestown.

John McElholm.
John McElholm.

Serious child sexual abuse allegedly carried out by a school principal in Co Fermanagh was an "open secret", an investigation by a Northern Ireland newspaper has claimed.

Alleged victims of John McElholm, who was principal of St Paul’s Primary School over 30 years ago, have spoken to the Impartial Reporter about the abuse they claim they received at the hands of the man who was regarded as a pillar of the Irvinestown community.

It is claimed that McElholm, who died in 1995, abused his position by preying on innocent children and sexually abusing them in school.

Four alleged victims have approached Impartial Reporter journalist Rodney Edwards to tell their stories, with a fifth source claiming he witnessed the alleged abuse but his parents stopped him from reporting it because McElholm was “treated as a God” in the community.

It is understood detectives from Public Protection Branch are interviewing the alleged victims as part of a review into historic sex abuse in Fermanagh.

The Clogher diocese said it had never been made aware of any allegations against McElholm.

The PSNI said that while it cannot comment on specific cases the public should be assured that detectives treat every allegation of child sexual abuse seriously, whether it happened years ago or recently.

Mr McElholm was a highly respected member of the community in Irvinestown. He was the chairman of Fermanagh GAA County Board, the Chairman of the Irish National Teachers Organisation and the President of the local St Vincent de Paul Society.

He served on the Arts Council, was involved in Fermanagh Feis, was a member of the Sports Council and was involved in drama productions at Mount Lourdes Grammar School and St Fanchea’s College in Enniskillen.

Rodney Edwards, who has published a series of stories about historic sex abuse in Fermanagh, told the Belfast Telegraph: “The sheer volume of victims coming out now in Fermanagh to share their stories and report sex abuse claims to police continues to shock, sadden and sicken people here.

“We have now received allegations of historic child sex abuse about more than 60 men in Fermanagh, some of whom are dead.

“We have many more stories to tell and important questions to ask such as who knew what? Why was nothing done about this case or many of the others? And crucially – McElholm is dead.

"His victims will never get justice so when can we expect the PSNI to start questioning the very many alleged perpetrators who are still alive and walk the streets of Fermanagh?”

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