Councillor Siobhán Currie, Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Statement on Sexual Abuse Investigations
5th February 2020
“I want to clarify the Council’s position regarding the allegations of historical sexual abuse in our District and associated legal advice, particularly in light of recent press commentary and ongoing speculation.
I think I speak for all Elected Members when I reiterate, in the strongest possible terms, condemnation of sexual abuse of any kind – to state that it is unacceptable for a child, or indeed anyone in our society, to experience abuse or harm of any kind, and I want to reiterate our absolute support for the victims of this situation.
The Council has co-operated with the ongoing Police enquiry. We have offered support to them in that enquiry. We continue to liaise with the Police Service on this matter at the most senior level.
I am satisfied that the Council itself, through our safeguarding arrangements and policies, has in place an established protocol for escalation of any reported matters to either Social Services or directly to the Police Service.
The matter has been raised at the Policing Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) and an update has been provided to all members. In that update, the police stated that their inquiries into the allegations were actively ongoing and, to protect the integrity of these investigations, there was a limit to the information that would be discussed publicly.
That brings us to the legal advice provided by our experienced legal team. In supporting the victims, we as elected Members must act responsibly and exercise the highest caution. We must take care not to prejudice investigations and, setting aside any issue around the limits of privilege, we must also take care to avoid the risk of impacting any subsequent trials. We must ensure that what we say could not be used against the victims themselves at some stage in the future. That is what has been advised.
I know that I could not sleep at night, indeed I would find it hard to live with myself, if I thought that something that was said in this chamber meant that victims did not receive justice. I’m sure members here would feel the same.
If members want to make other statements outside of the Chamber, that is up to them. However, in the Chamber, I will express condemnation on sexual abuse and on violence in any form, but I will not allow members to stray into sensationalising stories by discussing specifics relating to any victims or locations, potentially damaging victims’ quest for justice.
Finally, I would ask for respect for the role of Chair through your co-operation on this matter.”