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Whistleblower accuses Celtic of failing sex abuse victims

Gerry McSherry first raised concerns about young players being targeted in the mid 90s.

Gerry McSherry: Spoke out in the mid 1990s.
Gerry McSherry: Spoke out in the mid 1990s. STV

By Russell Findlay

A whistleblower who exposed sexual abuse at Celtic Boys Club more than 20 years ago has accused Celtic FC of failing the victims.

Gerry McSherry first raised concerns about paedophiles targeting young footballers in the mid 1990s.

Now - following the convictions of three men - McSherry has called on Celtic chiefs to take responsibility.

The club maintains it was an "entirely separate organisation" from the boys club despite evidence of close connections between them.

McSherry, 66, said: "Celtic's position today is appalling. They should act in the moral sense.

"Forget the legal niceties - act morally and do justice for the weans that grew up and played for them.

"Celtic was founded on charity and they say 'oh it's nothing to do with us, two separate entities' ... my backside.

"They are avoiding their responsibilities here at the expense of the victims. It's the victims who matter."

Celtic fan McSherry first learned of the abuse from the club's official photographer Hugh Birt.

Birt quit as chairman of the boys' club in the mid 1980s and gave evidence in the first trial of its manager Jim Torbett in 1998. Torbett was jailed for 30 months.

Up until his death in 2013, Birt remained bitter at how the abuse was "covered up".

https://stv.tv/news/west-central/1432626-celtic-boys-club-abuse-survivors-launch-legal-action/ | default

Last week, boys' club coach Frank Cairney, 82, was found guilty of ten abuse charges at Hamilton Sheriff Court - having been cleared of other charges in 1998.

It follows the second conviction of Torbett, 71, in November, resulting in a six-year prison sentence.

And former boys' club chairman and school teacher Gerald King, 65, will be sentenced in January after being found guilty of abusing boys and girls who he taught.

McSherry said: "Celtic Football Club should be ashamed of themselves for the way they treated the victims of Cairney, Torbett and King.

"But they should also be ashamed of the way they treated Hughie Birt. They isolated Hughie, ostracised him.

"He was treated terribly by Celtic."

A relative of Birt told STV News: "It is absolutely correct to say that Hugh felt let down and betrayed."

When McSherry learned of the boys' club abuse, he personally confronted Torbett, King and Cairney and passed information to the police and media.

https://stv.tv/news/west-central/1433495-former-celtic-boys-chairman-sexually-abused-boys-and-girl/ | default

He admits to throwing bricks through the windows of Torbett's former business premises.

And he was fined £100 in 1997 for making menacing phone calls to Cairney and turning up at his home.

He attempts to justify his law-breaking on the grounds that the criminal justice system failed in the 1990s.

McSherry, of Cathkin, Glasgow, said: "The police never took it seriously until I started papping bricks through windows.

"I can't arrest or charge them, put them on trial, get the verdict and jail them. I can't do that.

"All I can do is to get the attention of the police to take it up seriously so that they can nail and jail the beasts."

Police Scotland launched a full-scale investigation last year after the emergence of widespread historic sexual abuse of young footballers across the UK.

McSherry believes that Cairney and King should have been brought to justice years earlier - and warned that others have still not been caught.

He said: "I gave the police the names. 14 names, not two names.

https://stv.tv/news/west-central/1433779-former-celtic-boys-club-manager-frank-cairney-guilty-of-abuse/ | default

"I gave them the names in 1995 and 1996. They only arrested Torbett and Cairney at the time.

"Clearly, serious questions need to be asked of the police."

He believes that both he and Birt were smeared for speaking out and admits that doing so took a huge toll on his personal life and "still does".

He added: "Hughie was totally discredited. So was I. I'm just a daft b******. 'Oh him, he's just a headcase'.

"That's what was going about. Does it bother me? Not in the slightest.

"It's not about me or Hughie being vindicated. It's about the weans, about them being vindicated.

"These beasts stole their childhood. And it takes them 20, 30 years before they say, 'wait a minute, it wasn't my fault'.

"But that's what they do, put the blame on the weans and they then live with that.

"Your football career is at an end if you talk about what happened. If you mention anything to do with this, your career is finished.

"Telling that to a ten-year-old, terrifies them into submission so they've got total control over that wean's childhood."

Police Scotland say their investigation identified 153 victims of child sexual abuse in Scottish football, resulting in 13 arrests.

https://stv.tv/news/west-central/1432604-celtic-express-deep-regret-over-boys-club-sex-abuse/ | default

Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Taylor said: "Most of the individuals arrested and charged for abuse as a result of that investigation, including Cairney, have now been convicted and sentenced.

"Cairney was a predator who carried out his abuse over decades, using his position of power to target his victims and to ensure that they kept quiet.

"Although reports were previously investigated by legacy forces, our proactive investigation revealed the extent of his abuse and gave a voice to his victims.

"He is now facing the consequences of his actions and I hope his victims will finally feel vindicated.

"We appreciate how difficult it can be to report abuse. We want to thank everyone who came forward and reported, we understand the courage it took and how difficult this must have been.

"Our assurance to anyone who has not felt able to report during this time, is that if they wish to report in the future - we will listen; we will investigate regardless of where or when the abuse occurred, and we will take prompt action to ensure that no-one else is at risk of harm.‎"

A spokesman for Celtic FC declined to comment.

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