Abuse victim’s relief as scouts hall is razed

October 12, 2015

By Christine Keighery

The demolition of a local scout hall which was the scene of a catalogue of sexual abuse carried out against young boys in the 80’s has been hailed as the end of a “dark chapter” for victims of the abuse.

The derelict Bessbrook Scout Hall was demolished last week after a long running campaign by Bessbrook man Richard O’Shea, who gave up his anonymity in July this year to reveal details of his tireless lobbying to have the disused building razed to the ground.

Mr O’Shea was one of five young boys who were subjected to repeated abuse during the 1980s, some of which took place in the now disused Bessbrook Scout Hall.

The perpetrator, former scout leader Colin Finnegan, was convicted in October 2013 of 59 sex offences against the five boys, the first of which dated back to 1982 when Finnegan himself was just 12 years old, and continued into his mid-twenties. He is currently serving a 14 year jail term for offences including buggery, indecent assault and gross indecency.

Immediately after his abuser was sentenced, Mr O’Shea sought the demolition of the disused scout hall which he said represented  “a horrendous reminder of the past” for Finnegan’s victims.

Despite persistent efforts on his part over the last two years to obtain permission from the Bessbrook Parish Finance Committee and Parish Priest Fr. Larkin to destroy the building, as well as an offer to pay for the cost of demolition himself, the matter was beset by lengthy delays.  Frustrated by the lack of progress and opposed to certain stipulations and restrictions proposed by the parish in order for them to proceed with the demolition, Mr O’Shea made the brave step of publicly revealing his plight this summer.

It was a courageous move that has finally seen his wish granted, as workmen appeared at the hall last Wednesday to remove the roof of the disused building ahead of its final demolition on Thursday.

Speaking to The Examiner as the demolition began, Richard described it as “a great day, not just for me, but for all the victims of abuse, that we now have some closure.”

“It has been a long battle with the Parish to get this horrible building razed to the ground but we got there,” he added.

“I have not been in that building since 1993 when I was last abused by Finnegan and I felt a great sense of relief when I stood in the hall yesterday.

“My darkest demons will be taken down as well in this hopefully, and I’m confident that I will get the peace and closure that I need.”

Thanking his wife and entire family for their unending support, Mr O’Shea said he hoped he and all the victims of sexual abuse would get some comfort from the demolition.

Another of Finnegan’s victims, who wished to remain anonymous told The Examiner the demolition of the former scout hall was a “bittersweet event that represents the end of a very dark chapter to me.

“I hope that the many others affected over the years can take some comfort in seeing this being done, so it may help them in the long process of recovery.”