Abuse was understood in the ’60s, says Finlay

The chief executive of children’s charity Barnardos has spoken of the sexual and physical abuse he suffered at the hands of two religious brothers while a young boy.

Fergus Finlay took the decision to speak publicly about his abuse in the early 1960s to dispel the perception that clerical sex abuse was not “understood” at that time.

On Newstalk’s The Right Hook he said: “I was sexually abused in 1961 and I was physically abused in 1963. I was 11 and 13 respectively at the time. I knew what it was, I knew it was abuse. When I told my father about it, he knew it was abuse, he knew exactly what it was and he knew exactly what action needed to be taken, and it was taken. As far as I know, the kind of action that was taken ensured that no other child was abused by the same person.”

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Finlay said he was not presenting himself as a victim of sexual abuse. He said he had worked with many people who were traumatised by all the things that go “hand-in-hand with sex abuse”.

He said he was not in that category and had enjoyed seven wonderful years in secondary school, bar a couple of “miserable months”.

Mr Finlay said he spoke out in response to the claim “times were different then”.

“I have heard that too often,” he said. “There is a lot of nonsense talked about what a mysterious thing it was. It was not a mysterious thing. I knew what it was, my father knew what it was when I told him. All this stuff about ‘we did not understand sex abuse in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s’ is just nonsense.

“It was fully understood.”

He said if people like his father were able to deal with the issue, there was no excuse for those who had what he described as “extensive philosophical and moral training”.

He said he did not know if the Church took any action against his abuser in 1961 as he was never seen again in the school again.

“He was a pathetic old man. What happened to him, I do not know. To the best of my knowledge no other 11-year-old boy suffered at his hands.”

As to the physical abuse he suffered two years later, he said it was a “fairly extreme example” of the corporal punishment that was acceptable at that time. He said another brother found out about it and promised him it would never happen again, which it didn’t.

“I don’t want to tar all the brothers that taught me with the same brush.” he said. “To the best of my knowledge they dealt with the situation when my father brought it to them.”

Mr Finlay also addressed the controversy over Cardinal Seán Brady and the revelations about a secret internal church inquiry in 1975 into abuse by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

“There will be no possibility of any renewal or repair unless Cardinal Brady accepts that accountability demands his resignation. There has been no accountability and I was quite staggered today when I read his statement in which he almost seemed to paint himself as a victim, talking about being shocked and betrayed and let down by the actions of others. That is the opposite of accountability.”


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