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Fergus Finlay reveals personal experience of child abuse

The Barnardos chief executive said he was sexually assaulted at the age of 11.

Fergus Finlay
Fergus Finlay
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

BARNARDOS CEO FERGUS Finlay has revealed that he is a survivor of child abuse.

Finlay, a long-standing advocate of the rights of children, said that he had been both sexually and physically abused while a child in the early Sixties.

He was commenting amid ongoing controversy over the Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady’s role in interviewing a victim of paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth during the 1970s.

Speaking on Newstalk’s The Right Hook, Finlay rejected the suggestion that Brady might have been prevented from acting on his knowledge of the abuse allegations because a different culture existed in Ireland when the interview took place.

He said he had been well aware of the nature of the abuse that he suffered on two occasions:

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, and he knew exactly what action had to be taken.

Finlay continued: “I think it is a complete myth to suggest that everything is excusable on the basis that the culture has somehow changed.”

The former Labour Party activist called on Cardinal Brady to resign his position as leader of the Irish Church, saying he was “incapable of providing solace to people who have been abused [and] incapable of providing leadership to a pastoral flock that wants to come to terms with what has happened.”

In a statement earlier today, Cardinal Brady rejected suggestions that he should resign.

He said he had “no authority” over Fr Smyth at the time of the interview, when he was not in a senior position in the Church. He added he had been just a “notary or note taker” during the interview, saying:

I deeply regret that those with the authority and responsibility to deal appropriately with Brendan Smyth failed to do so.

Anybody affected or distressed by the current focus on child abuse can contact Connect Counselling for free on 1800 477 477 (and from Northern Ireland 00800 477 477 77). Opening hours are from 6 to 10pm Wednesday to Sunday.

More: Cardinal Brady says he had no power to stop Brendan Smyth>

Read: Cardinal Brady faces new claims over role in sex abuse inquiry>

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Michael Freeman

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