Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Abuse inquiry makes direct appeal

Sir Anthony Hart, chairman of an inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland
Sir Anthony Hart, chairman of an inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland

A major inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland has for the first time directly appealed to victims and survivors now living in Great Britain to come forward.

The statutory probe was set up earlier this year by the Northern Ireland Executive into abuse of children under 18 who were living in institutions such as children's homes, borstals and orphanages in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995.

To date, nearly 300 potential witnesses have come forward to share their experiences with the inquiry, including 43 individuals from Great Britain.

The majority of witnesses who have approached the inquiry still live in Northern Ireland but it is keen to hear from survivors living in England, Scotland and Wales too.

The inquiry's chairman, former judge Sir Anthony Hart, said he appreciated the decision to contact the inquiry could be difficult for survivors, particularly if they now lived outside Northern Ireland.

"We recognise that, for many potential witnesses, reliving their experiences will be very painful and traumatic," he said. "Indeed, some will not have told their closest relatives or friends about the abuse they suffered. If they now live outside Northern Ireland, the thought of contacting the inquiry may seem especially daunting.

"But we're determined to make this investigation as thorough as possible, and we believe there may well be individuals now living in Great Britain who have information which could greatly assist the inquiry. We will provide as much support as we can for them."

Among the 281 witnesses to come forward,157 witnesses have already been interviewed and have identified 35 separate residential homes and other locations where they allege abuse or neglect took place.

The inquiry has requested the help of nearly 300 organisations throughout Great Britain, including health trusts, social service departments, charities which work with abuse survivors, and those offering services to local Irish communities.

Victims groups have recently stepped up pressure on the Stormont Executive to widen its historical institutional abuse inquiry. Survivors of childhood abuse in Northern Ireland institutions and any other potential witnesses who wish to contact the inquiry should visit the inquiry's website at www.hiainquiry.org or contact freephone number 0800 068 4935.

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