The Orkney Inquiry: Parents' solidarity ended by dispute over public image: People in the Orkneys are sceptical of officials in authority after the allegations of ritual child abuse

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'It is still there all the time,' said a mother living on South Ronaldsay, who feared her own children would be taken away when the nine youngsters were taken in dawn raids. Her comment indicates that the small island community still has a long way to go to return to normal, writes James Cusick.

The woman, who asked not to be named, is active in the South Ronaldsay Parents' Action Committee, formed to offer assistance to the four families involved.

At the committee's annual meeting two weeks ago, one of the families did not turn up. The solidarity of almost two years recently ended over disputes on how they should present themselves to the public. One family will only speak through lawyers, even to their one-time supporters.

All four families who faced allegations of being part of an organised ritualistic paedophile group were 'in-comers' - non-Orcadians who had travelled north searching for a different lifestyle. Their supporters are largely in- comers. It is that fact which some in the action committee point to as being important.

'If you are not the normal, average, standard family, doing things the way social workers' computers say you're supposed to be doing things, then you are categorised as weird - you are into child abuse,' the mother said. 'If they cannot fit you into their slot, identify you as a bit out of the ordinary, you are easy pickings.'

The woman believes blame will 'still hang over this community as long as people remember'. The implication is that even with Lord Clyde's report, little changes. 'We all believed it was the social work department and others who were on trial during the inquiry. But we've since realised that was not the case.'

Only one new family, travelling north from the Channel Islands, has moved to South Ronaldsay since the allegations of ritual abuse first surfaced. An almost immediate contact was made with Orkney Islands Council social workers to look at the family and its children.

The social work department was being treated like 'passport control' in Orkney, according to one source inside the department. 'Some people feel that they must now somehow 'declare',' the source said.

What has changed most in the community of South Ronaldsay over the past 20 months?

For the mother who fretted and watched her own children worry if they would be taken away like their friends, 'loss of any respect for authority' has been the biggest change.

'The police, the council, social workers, whatever - we have all got very sceptical and the threshold for respect for these agencies has been lowered,' she said.

'It could have been anybody's kids. With this report we hope there is enough to ensure that it doesn't happen again.'

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