Child abuse inquiry: Official Secrets Act should be waived so intelligence officers can reveal cover-ups
Amnesty International today called on the Home Secretary Theresa May to give specific assurances that the Official Secrets Act will be very specifically suspended to enable potential witnesses, such as former intelligence officers, to give evidence about alleged cover-ups to the forthcoming child abuse inquiry.
When the historic abuse inquiry was announced at the start of June, Amnesty called for the inclusion of Belfast’s Kincora Boys’ Home. Three senior care staff at the east Belfast children’s home were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys, but it is feared that there were many more victims and abusers during the period 1960 to 1980.
Allegations have persisted that paedophilia at Kincora was linked to the British intelligence services, with claims that visitors to the home included members of the military, politicians and civil servants, and that police investigations into abuse at Kincora were blocked by the Ministry of Defence and MI5.
There are also claims that one of the convicted child abusers, William McGrath, was an MI5 agent and that two police investigations were obstructed by “the establishment” in Britain. Two former military intelligence officers, Colin Wallace and Brian Gemmell, have come forward in recent weeks with allegations that the security services blocked investigation of the child abuse in the mid-1970s. The abuse continued until 1980.
However, despite the persistence of such allegations, unless the Home Secretary intervenes, Kincora may not be included in the inquiry and former intelligence officers will be prevented from telling what they know because of the Official Secrets Act. The Act has previously been used to block Colin Wallace from giving information to 1980s-era inquiries into the abuse at Kincora.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:
"For this new inquiry to have credibility, the government must do things differently.
“The entire purpose of the inquiry is to lift the lid on this grim chapter – there should be no barriers to people saying what they know.
“These are deeply disturbing claims - that MI5 turned a blind eye to child abuse and actively blocked a police investigation, instead using the paedophile ring for its own intelligence-gathering purposes.
"The Home Secretary must announce the inclusion of Kincora in the inquiry and an exemption so that army officers and others bound by the Official Secrets Act can finally speak freely.
“The focus must be the protection of children, rather than officials and their dirty secrets.”