The government has ruled out the possibility of a nationwide child abuse inquiry investigating abuse at the Kincora children’s home in Belfast.
Campaigners had asked for Kincora to be included in the UK-wide inquiry into child abuse being conducted by Judge Lowell Goddard. New state files on abuse allegations have recently come to light.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said on Thursday the best forum to examine claims of political involvement in a paedophile ring that operated from Kincora was an on-going Northern Ireland inquiry, chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart – not the nationwide probe.
Victims of child abuse who are campaigning for Kincora to be included in the national inquiry argued that the Northern Ireland-specific inquiry does not have the power to compel security services witnesses to give evidence or produce documents.
There have been allegations that MI5 covered up abuse at Kincora to protect an intelligence operation it ran in the 1970s and that it instead used the knowledge to blackmail and extract intelligence from influential men who were committing abuse.
In 1981 three care staff at the home were jailed for abusing 11 boys, and there are claims that a paedophile ring at Kincora had links to the intelligence services.
It has also long been alleged that well-known figures in the British establishment – including senior politicians – were involved in abuse at Kincora.
Colin Wallace, a former intelligence officer, spent years trying to raise the alarm about Kincora – with his superiors and the press. Speaking to Channel 4 News earlier this year he said he found it “so hard to believe…given the amazing security apparatus we had in Northern Ireland in 1974” that nobody intervened to stop the abuse.
On Wednesday it was revealed that new documents, which should have been found during an earlier inquiry, had been discovered by a more in-depth search of government archives.
Within the list of files now uncovered is mention of the Kincora children’s home in Belfast, including correspondence from Colin Wallace.
Mr Wallace told Channel 4 News he was “amazed” that a record of his correspondence has been found but said that there are still documents missing from 1975 up to 1990 that haven’t been discovered. He added that he hoped “more will be found and made available to the inquiry…the challenge now is that the witnesses and victims are getting older, this is the last real chance to find out the truth.”
The contents of the newly uncovered files have not been made public but have been passed on to Judge Goddard’s Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry. The Cabinet Office has apologised for not providing the files sooner because of cataloguing issues.
Writing about the content of these files, Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC, who led the original inquiry say:
“there were a number of references across the papers we saw that reinforced the observation we made in our review that issues of crimes against children, particularly the rights of the complainant, were given considerably less serious consideration than would be expected today.
“To give one striking example, in response to claims from two sources that a named Member of Parliament ”has a penchant for small boys” – matters conclude with acceptance of his word that he does not and the observation that ‘At the present stage … the risks of political embarrassment to the government is rather greater than the security danger.’ “
The report concludes: “The risk to children is not considered at all.”