A major investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of children in Fermanagh has continued throughout the coronavirus lockdown, The Impartial Reporter has learned.

Specialist detectives working on what has been described as a “significant operation” involving teams of officers have spent the past number of months interviewing alleged victims of historical sexual abuse.

It's understood a number of alleged perpetrators who were scheduled to be arrested before the lockdown may soon face a visit from police officers.

Some of those alleged victims have spoken in praise of the Police Service of Northern Ireland for the way in which it is handling this investigation, expressing some misgivings with previous responses.

“This time around was totally different than the first time I went to PSNI as there were two officers, not one, and I was interviewed in a comfortable environment, not one of the rooms where you feel like a criminal,” one alleged victim told this newspaper this week.

“I'd like to thank the PSNI officers who are purposely investigating my allegations this time around as I feel there is something being done after all the anxiety, heartache and sleepless nights,” she said.

The victim said her experience of reporting the alleged crimes to the police “is an experience that I wouldn't wish on anyone” but added that sexual abuse "is rife in Fermanagh.”

“Hopefully with the hard work of the PSNI, detectives they will bring all these perpetrators to justice,” she said.

Another alleged victim, agreed, telling The Impartial Reporter how when she first made her allegations “nobody wanted to know, least of all the police.”

“It was as if no one actually cared, as if my pain didn't matter. This past year, however, has brought such a change. The police are contacting me again and again wanting to know even more details. And it's not just the police who are listening but also my family and that is something I never thought possible.

“It hasn't been easy reliving memories of each and every time I was abused, especially since there is no support whatsoever, but the thought that these monsters and their legacy of pain and suffering might actually be stopped, keeps me going.”

She admits to at times feeling “overwhelmed” and having to “put my head under the duvet and lock the world out” but that these days are “becoming less frequent.”

“I gave up expecting justice a long time ago because nothing, no punishment on earth, can rectify what they did to me nor give back the innocence that was so brutally stolen but I'm more hopeful than ever of getting them named and shamed so our children can be safe.

“My over-riding emotion, however, is of sadness; sadness for the countless children who have been abused by the very same people who abused me. If the police had listened to me when I first came forward the innocence of all these children could have been protected," she said.

Speaking previously to this newspaper, a spokeswoman for the PSNI said: “We would continue to urge anyone with any information about historical sexual abuse to come forward and contact police and seek professional support through our specialist detectives or through one of the dedicated support services specially trained to support victims. Contact the PSNI on 101 or through the dedicated email address at historicalabuse@psni.pnn.police.uk where you will be put in contact with a specially trained officer."

If you are victim of historical child sexual abuse, support is available through:

The 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Abuse Helpline - 0808 802 1414

Nexus NI – Belfast 02890 326803 / Enniskillen 02866 320046 http://nexusni.org/

The Rowan Centre free phone helpline - 0800 389 4424 / www.therowan.net

Victim Support NI – Belfast 02890 243133 / Foyle 02871 370086

Men’s Advisory Project – 02890 241929 / Foyle 02871 160001

Other local support services are as follows:

The Arc Living Centre – 02868 628741

The Aisling Centre – 02886 325811

The Oak Healthy Living Centre – 02867 723843