Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Call to expand abuse inquiry remit

The Historical Abuse Inquiry is investigating wrongdoing at residential institutions such as Magdalene laundries since 1922

Hundreds of victims of clerical and Magdalene laundry abuse in Northern Ireland have been left out of a new public inquiry designed to probe past wrongdoing, campaigners said.

Some women had their babies taken off them, were forced to scrub floors or locked in their rooms for hours in institutions for women like single mothers. Other men and women who claim they suffered years of sex abuse at the hands of predatory priests cannot tell their stories or seek redress under existing arrangements established by the Stormont Executive.

The Historical Abuse Inquiry chaired by a retired senior judge is investigating cases involving children in residential institutions in Northern Ireland since 1922.

Amnesty International Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan led a delegation to meet with Stormont ministers to press for its expansion.

He said: "Many victims are being left behind and what we delivered to the ministers today was a very clear message to say that there should be no second-class abuse victims in Northern Ireland. All deserve justice, all deserve truth, all deserve the state to respond to them. The state let them down then, it should not let them down again."

Women and girls were made to do unpaid manual labour in laundries run by Catholic nuns in Ireland between 1922 and 1996. They were intended for "fallen women", unmarried mothers and those with learning disabilities or who had been abused. Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has apologised on behalf of the Republic for the state's role in the laundries.

In Northern Ireland campaigners claim hundreds of people were affected or separately abused by priests outside institutions covered by an inquiry which began work last year.

The Good Shepherd Sisters ran laundries in Belfast, Newry and Londonderry. Another Magdalene asylum, including a steam laundry, was operated by the Church of Ireland in South Belfast.

One man was born in the Good Shepherd Convent laundry in Newry, Co Down. "My mother was physically and mentally abused, she was made to work and scrub floors," he said. "She was on her knees scrubbing floors just hours before she gave birth to me. She was locked in a cell, in a room, for not working hard enough."

The Stormont Executive has established an inquiry and acknowledgement forum headed by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart.

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