Belfast Telegraph

Scout hall where leader abused boys is demolished

Victim hopeful his 'darkest demons' will disappear along with Scout base

By Joanne Sweeney

A victim of one of the worst sexual abuse cases in Northern Ireland says he hopes his darkest demons will disappear with the razing of the Scout hall he was molested in.

The derelict Co Armagh building became a symbol of the suffering at least four young boy scouts went through for years at the hands of Colin Finnegan.

Scout leader Finnegan, now 46, was sentenced to 11 years at Belfast Crown Court in November 2013 for 59 sexual assaults on four men. The abuse started when they were around nine and lasted to their mid-teens.

He was a youth member of the Bessbrook unit of the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s and used his position of trust to molest the boys.

Yesterday workmen appeared at the hall - which has lain unused for years in the grounds of the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Bessbrook - to remove the roof ahead of the demolition today and tomorrow.

Richard O'Shea from Bessbrook gave up his anonymity to lobby the parish to destroy the building, even offering to pay the cost of demolition himself. Last night the brave father-of-three spoke of his relief and his hopes for the future.

He said: "I have not been in that building since 1993 when I was last abused by Finnegan and I felt a great sense of relief when I stood in the hall yesterday.

"My darkest demons will be taken down as well in this hopefully, and I'm confident that I will get the peace and closure that I need."

The victims endured three separate harrowing trials to bring Finnegan to justice.

After he was jailed, they campaigned for the Archdiocese of Armagh to tear the building down as they could not face going near the church or its graveyard for family occasions.

Mr O'Shea said the diocese promised him in June that the hall would be demolished, but had not confirmed when it would happen.

"It was a great thing when I heard from another one of the victims that it was being taken down yesterday morning," he added.

"I'm going to contact everyone to let them know it's been taken down to raise their spirits. They (the Church) are not going to get away again by keeping things quiet."

Mr O'Shea hopes the fact that the hall will no longer be visible will comfort the victims, particularly those still to report Finnegan's abuse to the police.

He added: "This is not just for me, it's for all the victims. It's not just for Finnegan's victims, but for all sex abuse victims, that if you fight for truth and justice, you can get it. To me it's a stepping stone to hopefully try and get my faith and trust back to go back to my local chapel, rather than going to a church in Newry."

Belfast Telegraph


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