30 years ago, many years before the internet and blogging, Rochdale's Alternative Paper (RAP) published “The Strange Case of Smith the Man”.
Serious allegations were published of Cyril Smith sexually abusing vulnerable young lads (15-17yrs) at Cambridge House hostel in the early 1960's.
Although the Rochdale Observer did not print any mention whatsoever of these extremely serious claims of local sex abuse, the allegations were repeated nationally in May 1979's Private Eye magazine. Libel lawyers acting for both RAP and Private Eye were consulted. The advice was clear- if the claims are true and can be substantiated- then publish and be damned.
Cyril Smith NEVER sued.
The local Establishment shamefully swept the whole episode under the carpet. In the same way the original criminal investigation and questioning of Cyril Smith in the late 1960's was 'handled discreetly' to avoid much attention.
Are the files relating to Cyril Smith, supposedly taken by Special Branch in the early 1970's, still safe and sound somewhere in that there London?
With this week's publication of the Ryan Commission Report, the Irish Republic has been rocked by terrible accounts of sexual abuse of vulnerable young people by the Christian Brothers, Sisters of Mercy and other associated institutions.
Paul Rowen MP together with his political agent Dave Hennigan and other local Lib Demmers, such as Jimmy Cricket's son Cllr Dale Mulgrew, all play heavily in their political careers on their strong Irish heritage. They will know about the terrible news and shocking accounts coming from Ireland.
Any right-thinking person would feel disgust at the cruel and abusive treatment alleged by many Irish victims. Anyone with a conscience would want to ensure past abuse is never forgotten or repeated.
Yet why does there remain a shameful conspiracy of silence in Rochdale over the shocking allegations about Cyril Smith sexually abusing vulnerable young lads?
There are a number of lessons from Ireland that are relevant for Rochdale:
- Despite shameful attempts at cover-up, deals and collusion, Establishment figures eventually have to account for themselves.
- Victims do not forget and often demand justice.
- The public and media also demand justice.
- Decades do not fade the cruel damage caused by abuse.