Priest slams ‘shameful’ abuse inquiry remit

Angela Constance. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Angela Constance. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A CATHOLIC priest has attacked the Scottish Government for its “shameful” decision to exclude some child abuse survivors from a public inquiry into the issue.

Father Gerry Magee, chairman of the campaign group White Flowers Alba, spoke out following a meeting with education secretary Angela Constance at Holyrood yesterday.

Survivors want the Scottish Government to extend the remit of the inquiry to include all of those abused by organisations such as the Catholic Church, not just those who were abused while in care.

Fr Magee, a parish priest in Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, said there was “shameful lack of equality” across the UK, as separate inquiries in England and Northern Ireland are investigating abuse carried out by members of religious orders.

He said: “The Scottish Government and all those who have been responsible for care in institutions where abuse has taken place should really hang their heads in shame.

“I know that I speak on behalf of the majority of Roman Catholic people in this country, they’re ashamed of what happened to children under the care of priests. Children were abused – they were treated like dirt by their abusers. Many of them feel like they are still being treated like dirt by the government and the hierarchy of the Church.”

Fr Magee said it was “astonishing” Ms Constance had admitted speaking to senior figures in the Church about the inquiry, while not communicating with survivors.

George McBride, 63, who was abused as a schoolboy, accused the government of using “weasel words”.

He said: “I was abused at primary school and it messed my head up. There are thousands of us out there – we don’t fit in the remit of the inquiry.

“This [abuse] has monstrous implications for human beings because it messes with your head and your relationships and has a huge cost for society.”

The group In-Care Abuse Survivors Scotland (Incas), which represents survivors aged 32 to 92, said groups would engage with the inquiry.

Labour MSP Iain Gray, who attended the meeting with the education secretary, said: “Both Incas and White Flowers Alba made a very compelling case that the majority of survivors feel completely excluded from the inquiry.

“I understand the Cabinet secretary saying she doesn’t want to make the remit too wide, but this is a once-and-for-all opportunity to try to provide some redress and justice and it seems to make no sense to exclude so many from the process.”

Ms Constance said draft legislation to remove the three-year time bar on bringing civil cases would be introduced before the end of the current parliamentary session.

She said: “We have sought to strike the right balance between widening the scope of the inquiry and the definitions of in-care and abuse from the original calls made. Throughout I have been determined to ensure survivors don’t lose hope that it will report back within a reasonable timescale.”