Two independent councillors were accused of putting sex abuse victims “at risk” by attempting to raise questions about the plethora of serious allegations that have emerged in recent months during Tuesday night’s meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in Enniskillen.

Due to technical issues, no recording of this meeting was made and it was difficult to hear some of the councillors clearly.

Both Donal O’Cofaigh and John McCluskey were stopped from discussing the sex abuse claims after Sinn Féin Chairwoman Siobhán Currie claimed any commentary could be prejudicial to the ongoing police investigation which was launched after The Impartial Reporter revealed allegations of child sex abuse, including a suspected paedophile ring at public toilets formerly managed by Fermanagh District Council. The number of alleged victims to approach this newspaper has risen to over 30 with allegations against over 50 men, some of whom are dead.

While that police investigation continues, nobody has been arrested, charged or indeed prosecuted in relation to any of the alleged crimes spanning over three decades and because of this, other DUP, Sinn Féin and Independent elected representatives have challenged the authorities publicly. Yet the Council as a body has decided not to discuss the issue.

In Tuesday night’s meeting Independent Councillor O’Cofaigh shared that the historic sex abuse claims had been referenced at the most recent PCSP meeting and he felt it was important that the issue was raised at Council due to the “huge concern in the community”.

He said: “There are very very severe allegations amounting in the media and they relate to a whole range of historic sexual abuse and we as councillors have not yet discussed this in any way.”

Councillor O’Cofaigh added: “There are serious concerns. Every week that goes by there are more stories. What are we going to do as a Council about it?”

Responding to Councillor O’Cofaigh, Chairwoman Currie commented: “I understand that this is actually a live investigation so I’m not sure we can do anything about it as a Council.”

At this point, Ulster Unionist Party Councillor John McClaughry left the chamber, stating: “As a former police officer I am aware of issues to do with the investigation that councillors may not be aware of.” Sinn Féin Councillor Anne Marie Fitzgerald also left the chamber due to a “conflict of interest.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Tommy Maguire, a member of the PCSP, said: “I don’t believe that we as Councillors are qualified enough nor legally qualified enough to discuss it in an open forum as a Council, the topic that has been raised in the local media.”

He continued: “As local Councillors, I’m sure I’m not the only one, that people have felt free to come to me with information regarding criminal activity that they are passed and I am quite happy as a member of the PCSP, to bring that information to the appropriate authority,

“I don’t believe it is the function of this Council to discuss criminal activity given that it is a live investigation.”

Chief Executive of the Council, Brendan Hegarty advised councillors to be cautious as this is a “live criminal investigation.”

Councillor Maguire formally proposed that the Council “do not discuss this issue in an open forum.” This proposal was immediately seconded.

Claiming that he wasn’t going to discuss the issue further, Councillor O’Cofaigh attempted to raise questions for the Council.

A legal representative for the Council, who was present on the panel, spoke out stating: “This is very difficult territory that you are planning to now move in to and I caution very much against it.”

He continued: “For the Council to discuss matters relating to a live investigation, the fact there is the potential to prejudice the investigation. I would greatly caution against it.”

Discussions erupted in the chamber but due to the technical issues with the microphones in the chamber, some of the conversations were inaudible. As the councillors spoke over each other, one councillor could be heard repeating the phrase “council toilets”. Independent Councillor McCluskey attempted to speak to the chamber but was abruptly cut off by Chairwoman Currie, who highlighted that the proposal not do discuss the issue in an open forum had been proposed and seconded. She said: “Can I just caution you Councillor McCluskey, we have been advised here that there is a criminal investigation taking place and we, by discussing it in this chamber, could prejudice that investigation.”

She added: “By continuing on this you are potentially putting the victims here at risk and in danger of not receiving justice.”

“I’m just asking for clarification, which issues are we talking about, there’s been huge issues in the press,” said Councillor McCluskey.

At this point, Chairwoman Currie stated: “We aren’t discussing this any further. Okay we are moving on.”