MONDAY 20  MAY 2024


Evil men of Kincora Boys’ Home who got away with child abuse 

COVER-UP: Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast was demolished in 2022

When I lived in Northern Ireland as a kid there was a house named Kincora a few doors away. I’ve not been back to check but you can be sure the name has been changed to something twee like Mon Repos following the appalling revelations over the Kincora Boys’ Home in Belfast which emerged in the 1980s.


An Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry began investigating in 2016 and a year later, with some haste you might think, concluded that no members of the security forces had been involved as had been widely alleged by the usually reliable Irish Independent and Private Eye. But security forces were far from the only ones in the frame.


Lord Mountbatten was accused of involvement by, among others, my friend Andrew Lownie in his painstakingly researched book, The Mountbattens: Their Lives and Loves. He was said to have had boys driven from Kincora to his castle in Donegal for his own nasty pleasure. Also accused were Enoch Powell, who ended his political career as Unionist South Down MP and Jim Molyneaux, another far right and Monday Club stalwart Unionist MP and later its leader. Powell was named by the former Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, to be a member of a Westminster paedophile ring and also investigated by police over the Kincora horror story. Nothing was concluded.


In the case of Molyneaux, a gay firmly in the closet when homosexuality was still outlawed by Stormont, it was the journalist Lyra McKee, later shot dead by renegade Republicans, who did most of the investigating. She revealed that despite Molyneaux’s denial that he had ever been to Kincora, he was a friend of William McGrath, the home’s ‘housefather’ and vile abuser who was jailed for four years.


The names of Powell and Molyneaux crop up again and again in the ongoing case of Jeffrey Donaldson, accused of rape and 10 other sexual offences, and due to appear again before Newry magistrates this month. A young Donaldson was election agent for Powell when he stood in South Down and the pair became close with the former Tory Cabinet minister acting as a political mentor to the younger man, then festooned with an earring. When Molyneaux became UUP leader Donaldson was his personal assistant until his retirement in 1997 and eventual elevation to the Lords.


Allegations of child abuse are not confined to Unionism. Ten years ago Liam Adams, younger brother of former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, was jailed for 16 years for raping his daughter. As the judge said when sentencing him: ‘This is the greatest breach of trust imaginable where a father instead of caring for and protecting his daughter, instead abused her.’


Next month I reach another milestone in my rickety life when I reach the age of 78. I don’t yet know how it will be celebrated because one of my gorgeous daughters has arranged a surprise and neither she nor my beloved are saying. In all that time I have troubled the NHS just twice, an overnight stay with a stroke in 2017 (brilliant treatment at St George’s, Tooting) and an adenoids op at the age of two (and I remember the lovely jolly nurse because hers was the first black face I had seen.)


OK, I know I am tempting fate with this but I consider myself very fortunate especially as I have never bothered a gym or a golf course or some daft Swiss starvation rip-off spa. It’s because I am so lucky that I feel such anger when I know of friends who have been so let down by the NHS. One is an 87-year-old who served his country both as an army officer, retiring as a brigadier, and as a prolific charity volunteer; the other, also 87, who has fought the system following his (now) late wife’s brain stem injury which left her unable to do anything for herself and him £180,000 the poorer.


The Brig, Chris, has cancer and recently spent time in hospital. On release he was told he would have a six-week care package which meant nurses coming in three times a day. After five days the package ended with the hospital insisting he had misunderstood the agreement. He hadn’t.


My other old pal, Jim, has spent his days battling with a series of baffling Health Service acronyms seemingly set up as road blocks to paying for end of life care which, in the NHS constitution, is clearly its responsibility and is set out as its 187-page National Framework. Standing in the way are the ICB (Integrated Care Board,) the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) and a host of alphabetical others.


The one thing which is clear is that when you lose someone to such a dreadful injury as Jim did, the way to get funding should be simple and sympathetic. And if a person with cancer is discharged from hospital and promised a six-week care package, that promise should be kept. 


Assuming a change of government this year, one of the priorities for Keir Starmer should be a root and branch shake-up of the NHS, culling the multiple layers of managers and concentrating on those who actually do the essential work of curing and caring. Management, as often as not, gets in the way and never was that more evident than in the Lucy Letby court case when complaints from her nursing colleagues were overruled by managers at the Countess of Chester hospital. Their inaction allowed Letby to murder of seven tiny babies and the attempted murder of seven more.


I rest my case.


Here’s a rhetorical question: has there ever been a greater servant to English cricket than Jimmy Anderson?  He has announced his retirement after the first Test at the beginning of July which hopefully will bring him a clutch of West Indian wickets to add to his record 700. His swansong will be at Lord’s and nobody better deserves the sort of send-off that he will surely be given. He will be 42 just after the Test and I hope he will be summoned to the Palace for the knighthood he has richly earned. 


Compare and contrast: poor Monty Pythonesque Monty Panesar, 42, a decent enough spinner now retired, who announced that he would stand for Ghastly Galloway’s Workers’ Party at the general election, and a week later changed his mind. Hopefully he won’t now try to join Labour because after the events of the last week I don’t think Starmer will be interested in strange new recruits.


13 May 2024