Lundy urged to stand down over abuse case
Belfast man’s role as Jersey director of education called into question
The Ulsterman who heads Jersey’s education system has faced a call for his suspension while a major police investigation into widespread abuse in children’s homes on the island continues.
Belfast-born Mario Lundy, the island’s director of education, faced the call from the floor of the States of Jersey, the island’s parliament, during a bad-tempered parliamentary questions session.
Mr Lundy is one of a string of leading figures in Jersey to have links with the so-called ‘House of Horrors’, Haut de la Garenne, having worked there for a period before it closed. He strenuously denies any suggestion of wrongdoing.
The former teacher also worked at its successor, Les Chenes, where further allegations of physical abuse against staff members are being examined by the probe.
Police continue to investigate claims by more than 160 former residents of Jersey’s children’s homes about decades of abuse — both physical and sexual — stretching from the 1960s until Haut de la Garenne was closed in 1986, at its successor Les Chenes and a number of other children’s facilities.
During their probe launched earlier this year, cops uncovered four underground cellars at Haut de la Garenne, believed to have been used as makeshift dungeons during the home’s grim past. Former residents of the home described them as “punishment rooms” where they were subjected to physical abuse.
Remains believed to have belong to five children aged between four and 11-years-old were also discovered.
Earlier this year the island’s Channel TV revealed the links of a number of Jersey’s most-respected figures with the Haut de la Garenne home, including current education director Mr Lundy. The former teacher — who was raised in the Rosetta area of Belfast and is a former pupil of St Mary's CBS — worked there for a period in the 1980s before moving to Les Chenes.
He is now Jersey’s education minister’s chief advisor.
During the Jersey parliament’s last questions, Senator Stuart Syvret said that it was “totally inappropriate” for the Belfast man to remain at work while the investigation is ongoing.
Senator Syvret is the island’s former health minister, who was removed from that post in September last year after he blew the whistle on a harsh punishment regime in a home where children as young as 11 were kept in solitary confinement.
He has been an outspoken critic of ministers, civil servants and social workers, whom he has accused of failing to protect children, but he was dismissed in September last year after losing a vote of confidence in Jersey’s parliament.
Mr Syvret, under parliamentary privilege, asked Chief Minister Frank Walker: “In the event of a very senior States employee being under serious police investigation for repeated episodes of violent child abuse, would the chief minister consider that to be a sufficiently serious matter and of sufficient reputational risk for the States of Jersey to at least merit suspension?”
Later in the debate he asked: “Does the chief minister really not consider, given the seriousness of the issue and the nature of the investigations that are taking place, that it is wholly inappropriate for Mario Lundy, the chief officer of the education department to remain at work?”
Senator Walker replied: “I need not answer the question, but may I express my abhorrence at the question and the fact that the senator has yet again flagrantly and knowingly broken the rules of this Assembly.”
Sunday Life last week contacted Mr Lundy’s office for comment on the call for his suspension, but a spokeswoman for the island’s Department of Education, Sport and Culture said: “I am afraid we cannot speak on individual cases and Mario is not giving interviews himself.”