Staff at Brindley House were allegedly threatened and intimidated by some of the men who were drugging and sexually abusing children from the facility in Killadeas almost 20 years ago, two former employees have claimed.

In separate interviews with The Impartial Reporter the former employees have confirmed that children as young as 12-years-old were being drugged and abused by known criminals as they tried in vain to stop what was going on, sometimes putting their own lives at risk.

Former employee X told this newspaper: “The children were being taken away on a regular basis, they were being plied with drugs, with alcohol, with mobile phones. They were being provided with jewellery; they were being groomed significantly.

“Do I believe they were being prostituted out to other men? 100 per cent I do.”

The employee recalls following some of the children and discovering that they were being brought to houses in the area, including in Enniskillen, Irvinestown and Strabane.

“The men who were doing it; we learned some of their names and we provided their names to the police,” said the former employee.

“Those men were pretty horrible, they had no fear, they were known to have been associated with drugs and criminals. We knew of a taxi firm that was involved, that was picking the children up. Some of them were ex-criminals, they were well known to police, they were pretty notorious. Were they dangerous? They were dangerous with what they were doing with vulnerable children from 12 years of age.”

The men, claims the former employee, were “very threatening” towards the staff.

“They threatened to burn us out of house and home. We would have challenged them personally. I remember challenging them, they had no fear. We would have tried to talk to them, to reason with them, but they just laughed at us.

“These conversations took place at different houses, we would have followed them, we would have given those addresses to the police.”

The men in question regularly intimidated staff members, claims the former employee.

“It was quite scary, they did tail-gate us. They did frequently follow us from Brindley to different places and they would have actively threatened us. In one house in Enniskillen they threatened us with aids needles.

“We would have done anything to help the children. On one occasion I actually paid one of them off. One girl refused to engage with this man who then claimed that child owed him £300 for drugs. I gave him the £300 to leave her alone. I had conversations with police about it at the time and was told if you want rid of him pay him, so I met him on the side of the road and paid him.”

The former employee claims to have alerted police to the men.

“We were able to name at the time 13 men and they were from Fermanagh and Derry as well. We spent a lot of time in the then care unit which was attached to the police station in Enniskillen to try to encourage the children to do an interview and give evidence, but they would never name names.

“The police would bring them in, question them but they would deny all knowledge. At that point the legislation didn’t allow us to make complaints on behalf of the children so we couldn’t give evidence on their behalf.”

Getting emotional, the former employee said the memories of those days “still haunt me”.

“You have no idea how much this hurts me. I remember occasions when we were in the middle of the road to try to stop those cars to get the kids out of those cars. I agree 100 per cent, that those children were prostituted out.

“Still to this day it haunts me, I am getting emotional now, I don’t know what else we could have done. Those kids didn’t feel worthy and we would have done everything to try to stop them from leaving.”

A second person, whom we are calling Employee Y, was clear as to what they remembered: “Child prostitution was going on in Brindley House”.

“A lot of children were leaving and coming back with unexplainable gifts and money. They were staying away for hours. We would have followed them, they were jumping into hedges and ditches and we knew something was going on. That information was passed onto the police.

“It was very traumatic, I heard some of the children saying they had been with unknown men. They denied it initially because it would have stopped them getting drugs.”

Each time the former employee said the incidents were recorded and reported to the field social worker and the police.

“We had a duty to report everything and anything untoward was passed on and recorded in a file but what happened after that I do not know. It is something that has always played on my mind… not knowing what happened.

“But I always knew what went on at Brindley House would eventually come out,” said the former employee.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Departmental records indicate that allegations relating to Brindley House were brought to the Department’s attention by the NI Children’s Commissioner in March 2005.

"The Department sought a response from the Western Board and was subsequently advised by the Board that there had been shortcomings in the operation of Trust child protection procedures, including a failure to notify the Western Board and Department.

"An inspection of child protection services was initiated by the Department in early 2006. The inspection was conducted by the Social Services Inspectorate and was undertaken in 5 [then] HSS Trusts. As indicated in the inspection overview report, Our Children and Young People – Our Shared Responsibility, published in December 2006, an inspection of the interface between residential and fieldwork childcare services was conducted in both the Sperrin Lakeland and Foyle HSS Trusts due to issues identified within theirchildren’s residential care provision. 

"Also, as acknowledged in the overview report, the Department continued to work with those Trusts where inspections took place to ensure that actions identified to address recommendations were robust and applied with appropriate urgency to address improvements. Individual inspection reports and associated action plans were also published."

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "In December 2006 The Social Services Inspectorate published a report ‘Our Children and Young People – Our Shared Responsibility’, which made three recommendations for the PSNI to improve public protection arrangements in each district to ensure the rights of children and vulnerable people are protected.  Those three recommendations were implemented.

As a result of a review carried out by police and Social Services following the publication of this report, at the beginning of 2007 Detectives from Crime Operations launched a criminal investigation into the allegations of organised child abuse at the former Brindley House children’s home in Fermanagh between 2000 and 2005. 

In 2008 a number of properties were searched and 11 people were arrested  in counties Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh and interviewed for child abuse offences, as part of a long and protracted investigation. A comprehensive file was prepared and submitted to the PPS. The PPS directed no prosecution after concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.  

If anyone has a complaint about the actions of police during this investigation they can contact the Office of the Police Ombudsman for an impartial investigation of the matter.

We would encourage anyone who has been the victim of any sexual or physical abuse, whether recently or in the past, to speak with our specially trained Detectives in our Public Protection Branch or to one of partner organisations specially trained to support victims. Please contact the police service on 101 or through our dedicated email address at where you will be put in contact with a specially trained officer."

NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma said:

“In 2005, the office of the Children’s Commissioner became aware of potential breaches in child protection procedures at Brindley House residential home where it was alleged children were being put at risk. These were raised with the relevant authorities and as required by law, rather than open his own inquiry, the then Commissioner, was assured by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety that they would take the appropriate action. 

"A review of child protection arrangements in the relevant Trust was subsequently published by The Social Services Inspectorate in December 2006 and following a review, police opened a criminal investigation.”