Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Anger over Stormont’s ‘forgotten promise’ on clerical abuse probe

Over three months ago the victims of clerical child abuse in Northern Ireland were told the Government would consider ordering an official inquiry into the scandal.

Today, proposals on how to address the abuse that thousands suffered at the hands of nuns and priests in Church-run industrial schools is gathering dust on a desk in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), according to one of the victims who is heading a campaign for justice.

Margaret McGuckin, who suffered years of physical and emotional abuse while attending Nazareth House Convent in Belfast, said she feels like they are the “forgotten victims” and begged the Executive not to leave them floundering.

Victims have been calling for an inquiry similar to the Ryan Report that uncovered a shocking litany of historic crimes in the Republic.

Following months of campaigning by victims, the Stormont Government agreed in March to consider an official inquiry and proposals on how to bring that forward were presented to OFMDFM. No decision has yet been made on how the issue will be addressed.

“Now that the TV cameras are off and the politicians are out of the spotlight it seems that all the promises have been forgotten,” Ms McGuckin said.

She added: “They do not know what it is like to live this day and daily and what it has taken for so many people to finally come forward and speak about what happened to them.

“We really thought we were finally being listened to but now everyone has gone quiet.

“We really believed what happened to us was being taken seriously but now proposals on how to help us get closure are just gathering dust in OFMDFM. Now it is summer recess, so how long are we going to be forced to wait? This delay is inexcusable.”

Ms McGuckin also wrote a letter to the Pope in February asking for recognition of what happened to victims in Northern Ireland.

She said she has still not received a response.

She also said that some victims are considering protesting at the Pope's visit to Britain in September.

Calls for an official inquiry intensified earlier this year after revelations that senior church figures helped to cover up abuse claims against Northern Irish clerics.

The PSNI has set up a specialist detective team to investigate past crimes.

Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said the team would play its part to bring to justice to those responsible but stressed there is a need for a wider response among statutory agencies to address the allegations.

Several abuse victims are also planning a landmark legal case against several religious orders and Government bodies that were responsible for child welfare at the time, for failing to protect them.

A spokesman for OFMDFM: said: “The Executive is currently considering an options paper, from the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Michael McGimpsey, to help inform the way ahead on dealing with this very complex and sensitive issue.

“We are committed to ensuring that the Executive urgently affords the matter further detailed consideration and reaches early agreement on a way forward.”

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