Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has this week confirmed its “co-operating” with detectives investigating allegations of historical child sexual abuse in the county.

Some of the allegations relate to claims children were sexually abused in public toilets in Enniskillen, once owned by the former Fermanagh District Council, by a network of men.

Council Chairwoman Siobhan Currie made a significant statement on Tuesday night more than 10 months after claims of alleged child abuse in Fermanagh first emerged in The Impartial Reporter newspaper.

While outlining the legal position taken, which effectively banned all discussion of the subject in the chamber, the Sinn Fein councillor also clarified that co-operation with the Police Service of Northern Ireland is ongoing; safeguarding protocols are in place and funding is being provided to a number of agencies supporting victims.

The issue was raised by Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, Independent, who sought advice on why it was impossible to discuss some criminal matters subject to live investigation, but not others, particularly the, “pervasive and increasing number of incidences of allegations of child sex abuse in Fermanagh”.

At last month’s Council meeting the alleged attempted murder of a police officer in Kesh was condemned and a decision taken to write to the chief constable expressing this. Having supported this, Councillor O’Cofaigh pointed to “disparity” in the chamber as he and several other members were, as he claims, “censored” for trying to raise the Fermanagh sex abuse.

Members were previously told on the back of legal advice, discussion was prohibited as it may prejudice the investigation. However, Councillor O’Cofaigh pointed out that decision was taken before any arrests, yet a male had been arrested over the Kesh incident then released on bail, but discussion was still permitted.

In response, Councillor Currie delivered a statement on the position, advising members were at liberty to say what they wished outside the chamber, but cautioned on the possibility of putting prosecutions at risk, which could only be detrimental to victims.

She said: “I want to clarify the council’s position regarding the allegations of historical sexual abuse in our district and associated legal advice, particularly in light of recent press commentary and ongoing speculation.

“I think I speak for all elected members when I reiterate, in the strongest possible terms, condemnation of sexual abuse of any kind – to state that it is unacceptable for a child, or indeed anyone in our society, to experience abuse or harm of any kind, and I want to reiterate our absolute support for the victims of this situation.

“The council has co-operated with the ongoing police enquiry. We have offered support to them in that enquiry. We continue to liaise with police on this matter at the most senior level. I am satisfied that the council itself, through our safeguarding arrangements and policies, has in place an established protocol for escalation of any reported matters to either Social Services or directly to police.

“The matter has been raised at the Policing Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) and an update has been provided to all members. In that update, the police stated that their enquiries into the allegations were actively ongoing and, to protect the integrity of these investigations, there was a limit to the information that would be discussed publicly.

“That brings us to the legal advice provided. In supporting the victims, we as elected Members must act responsibly and exercise the highest caution. We must take care not to prejudice investigations and, setting aside any issue around the limits of privilege, we must also take care to avoid the risk of impacting any subsequent trials. We must ensure that what we say could not be used against the victims themselves at some stage in the future. That is what has been advised.

“I know that I could not sleep at night, indeed I would find it hard to live with myself, if I thought that something that was said in this chamber meant that victims did not receive justice. I’m sure members here would feel the same.

“If members want to make other statements outside of the chamber, that is up to them. However, in the chamber, I will express condemnation on sexual abuse and on violence in any form, but I will not allow members to stray into sensationalising stories by discussing specifics relating to any victims or locations, potentially damaging victims’ quest for justice.”

The update was welcomed by Councillor O’Cofaigh who thanked Councillor Currie for her “comprehensive response which addresses many issues.”

He concluded: “It is important we recognise the hurt and encourage people to come forward. We must give our support to police and the services providing assistance to victims.”