I wrote the majority of this article a year ago but I decided not to publish at the time for various reasons that I won’t go into here. Things have changed. I’ve made a few changes from the original.
Talking to Richard Kerr for the first time, I’m struck by his politeness.Whether this is due to his upbringing or the famous courtesy you find in those southern states of the USA which may have washed over him down the years, in the same way his accent of Irish brogue evenly competes with the Texan drawl of his adopted home, I can not say but what I can say is that it is a pleasure to talk to him.
Richard has every reason to wish engage in the current UK wide debate regarding non-recent child sexual abuse. At the age of five he entered the Northern Ireland care system, and in 1975, at the age of 14, he became a resident of the notorious Kincora Boys Home where he was sexually abused. He is referred to in The Hughes Report but on this occasion, this post will not concern itself with the sexual abuse he suffered as a child, which continued after he left the care system, and it will not attempt to untangle the web of Unionist politics and security service involvement which has made Kincora a byword for child sexual abuse, scandal, and cover-up. Instead I’d like to look at the reason Richard Kerr will no longer deal with Exaro News and why one journalist, Fiona O’Cleirigh, will no longer work for them.
A quick word here about why I think this is important, and even necessary because there are some that have suggested that I have some personal vendetta against Exaro News and their Editor-in-Chief Mark Watts in particular. I’ve met Mark Watts on only one occasion and our meeting was quite cordial but ultimately someone has to carry the can for what has happened and as Mark Watts was the Editor-in-Chief and therefore the person who decided which stories were published and which were not, how and when they were presented, and would have been cognisant of the overall impression that they gave, I think it is only fair that he take the responsibility.After all, that is what he has been paid to do.
Another reason for writing this is that I believe it demonstrates that often media outlets, not just Exaro News, may publish material that may not be in the interests of the survivor they have talked to. There is also the danger, especially in this post-Panorama period, that any survivor who may have had dealings with Exaro may become contaminated by association and more generally this may happen to any survivor making allegations regardless of whether they’ve talked to Exaro, or indeed any media outlet and that, I feel, would be a crying shame.
This particular account begins this Summer  when Richard Kerr was visiting the UK on personal business and he was asked by Exaro to participate in the Australian 60 Minutes programme. “I felt that if I could help other survivors by speaking out and talking about my own abuse then I should.” Richard tells me.
And so, in the middle of June – a month before the programme was broadcast, Richard was interviewed by the Australian Channel 9 journalist Ross Coulthart for the documentary. During the interview Richard was shown a number of photographs of men and asked if he had been abused by them or if he knew whether any of them had been part of the Kincora abuse cover-up. With no warning and taken by surprise by this approach Richard answered as best he could. However, following the interview he expressed his concerns to Ross Coulthart and asked that that part of the interview not be broadcast and that no mention of the men he named be included in the programme. Ross Coulthart agreed to Richard’s request and it is to Ross Coulthart’s credit that when the 60 minutes was broadcast, no mention was made of any of the men that Richard had attempted to identify from the photographs.
The interview in the can, nothing that further impacts on this narrative occurs until just before the broadcast in Australia of the 60 Minutes documentary. Like any editor of a news outlet which has worked in concert with a film like this one, Mark Watts wanted to run parallel stories. Readers will have noticed a similar approach from the BBC just prior to the broadcast of the Panorama documentary. There is nothing really very unusual or controversial in this strategy. However, Mark Watts had not had a preview of the Channel 9 documentary and had become convinced that Ross Coulthart and the film makers would not keep their word with regards to the undertakings given to Richard Kerr.
The story that results and which carries Mark Watts’ name on the byline is entitled ‘Richard Kerr names powerful men who ‘cover-up’ Kincora’, in the article published just before the broadcast of the 60 Minutes, Mark Watts writes;
“The programme is expected to show on Sunday night (local time) some of the dramatic sequences where Kerr identifies powerful men as part of the Kincora cover-up.”
The 60 Minutes programme does not do that but Mark Watts does and I think it’s telling that Watts doesn’t believe that other journalists keep their word.
In the hours preceding the publication of this Exaro story, Richard Kerr couldn’t be contacted. Texts messages between Fiona O’Cleirigh, a freelance journalist who had been working with Richard Kerr for Exaro News, and Mark Watts were exchanged which ended with Mark Watts demanding from her Richard’s contact details which, to her credit, she refused to pass on to him and as a consequence she lost her job with Exaro News.
Following the publication 0f the story Richard Kerr was naturally very upset. He’d been taken by surprise when the five photographs of individuals had been produced during the interview, he’s an obliging gentleman and attempted to help the interviewer but directly after the interview, recognising that he couldn’t be 100% certain that he had correctly identified all of the men in the photographs, or if he had recognised them, from other sources. Of the 5 men that Richard identified he was certain that he’d met of two of them but of the other three he was uncertain. He he had immediately requested that this part would not be made public. Richard Kerr knows too just how much such a mis-identification, once public, can harm the credibility of a survivor (even one like himself who can demonstrate his abuse very clearly).
However, despite requesting that the VIPs he had named under these pressurised circumstances be removed, it was never done and they remained on the Exaro News website until the day the site recently disappeared.
Putting aside the dubious usefulness of this photo-identification technique, this kind of shoddy journalism may grab the attention of conspiracy theorists, it may result in a website getting more hits but it does nothing for the reputation of a witness who may have very valuable information about establishment CSA.