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‘St Pat’s sex abuse destroyed my life’

By Gráinne McWilliams

A WEST Belfast man who was sexually abused while resident  at the former St Patrick’s Boys’ Home on the Glen Road has spoken to the Andersonstown News about how his ordeal ruined his life and broke up his marriage.

The former resident came to  us to tell his story after he read in our paper last week that police are investigating historical allegations of child sex abuse at “an educational establishment in West Belfast” – an establishment we know to be St Patrick’s Boys’ Home.

The Glen Road institution, which was run by the De La Salle Order, was known locally as St Pat’s Home and operated until the year 2000. The Glenmona Resource Centre, which provides residential care to young people between the ages of 10 and 17, currently operates on the St Pat’s site. Glenmona has no association with St Pat’s and is totally unconnected to the police investigation.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News, the former resident, who entered the junior section of the school aged 12 in 1978 and left when he was 16, described how he was abused by a lay staff member at the institution.

“He called me one day to give him a hand, I didn’t know what it was for,” said the former resident, who asked not to be named. “The next thing he took me into the backroom and sexually abused me.  He tried it again a few times but that was the only time he sexually abused me. That happened to me in 1979, but I know of another three boys that he sexually abused.  I didn’t complain about it at the time as I didn’t think anyone would believe me.”

The former resident also described how a De La Salle brother at the home would touch him in an inappropriate way when he walked past.

“He did it in front of staff and everything, and did it to other boys too,” he remembered. “He used to call you ‘Love’ as well.  That brother was never charged with anything.”

The victim said the trauma of the abuse led him into a life of petty crime when he left the facility at aged 16, meaning he spent numerous spells in prison. He described how he ran ­into his abuser again  while serving a prison sentence in  Crumlin Road Gaol in 1986.

“There were ordinary criminals on one side of the prison where I was, and sex offenders on the other side of the prison,” he recalled. “He was in for sexually abusing somebody and I saw him.  I was walking down the stairs one night and spotted him coming out of his cell and I just looked at him. He looked at me and I just walked on. It brought it all flooding back to me.”

He spoke of how he kept the abuse secret from his wife as he struggled to lead a settled life, until he received a visit from police officers investigating abuse claims made against his old tormentor.

“I had kept all this from my wife for 12 years until the day the police came to my door 15 years ago,” he said. “I thought they were looking for me in relation to something else, but they said to me that allegations had been made against this man by a couple of pupils [at St Pat’s] and that I was mentioned. I just broke down. I told them everything.  I kept it all from my wife and told her absolutely nothing until the day the police came.

“After that I took an overdose as it brought all the memories back again. I hit the drink and in time my marriage broke up.  It was a horrible time when I was in the home and when the abuse happened, but to tell you the truth, dealing with the aftermath was the worst bit.”

After the police contacted him, the victim agreed to give evidence against his abuser.

“The day I was due to testify against him in court I was in Magilligan Prison for petty crime,” he said. “They brought me up to the court but I couldn’t even get up in the box to give evidence against him.  I asked the solicitor to take me back down to the cells again, but he [the abuser] ended up pleading guilty and was convicted of gross indecency and indecent assault against me.  That was November 1996. But he only got a suspended sentence for it as he was already a convicted sex offender at the time and was on one of those sex offender programmes.

“I had also told the police when they contacted me about the brother touching me up every time I went past him, but nothing ever happened with that.”

While in Magilligan Prison in October 1996, he wrote to St Patrick’s Boys’ Home asking for an apology for the abuse he suffered.

“I got no reply,” he said.

“So when I was released in January 1997 I went up to St Patrick’s and asked in person for an apology, and still never got one.  I was in a bar in town about six or seven years ago and his name was brought up in conversation.  A girl said he was dead and that he had lived over in the university district.”

The victim said reading the article in last week’s Andersonstown News “brought it all back to me again”.

“It just sickens me,” he said. “I’m an alcoholic now, I don’t work.  Up until 15 years ago I was involved in petty crime because of the abuse. Once I left St Pat’s I was in Hydebank three times a year through drink, then Crumlin Road.  I got married and the crime slowed down and stopped.

“This abuse mucked my head up.  I want to see the brother who touched me charged and locked up, he’s probably still alive. They were supposed to be looking after me and instead I was getting sexually abused,” he continued.

“I felt no-one would believe me if I told them and that no-one was on my side.  There are a lot of people that were sexually abused in that home and they just haven’t come forward.  This is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s people out there who have been sexually abused by this man.”

When contacted by the Andersonstown News again this week, the De La Salle Order in Dublin refused to comment.

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