Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Historic child abuse investigation will now cost £19m, Assembly told

Costs for an inquiry into historical institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland could reach £19m, the Assembly has been told.

Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt, who chairs Stormont's OFMDFM committee, said MLAs had been informed in September that predicted costs had doubled from initial estimates.

The Strangford MLA added: “On the estimated costs of the inquiry the committee sought clarification from the department whether the figures in the financial and explanatory memorandum of between £7.5m and £9m remained accurate.

“Officials advised the committee that the estimated costs had been revised upwards — doubled in fact to £15-19m to take into account the complexities of the inquiry and the associated legal costs.”

Mr Nesbitt said he was assured the necessary funds would be made available from the OFMDFM budget.

Last September the Executive announced there would be an investigation and inquiry into historical institutional abuse.

Former High Court Judge Sir Anthony Hart was appointed to head the panel to examine whether there were systemic failings by care homes, children's homes, borstals or the state in their duties towards children.

Initially, the inquiry was to look at cases between 1945 and 1995, but MLAs have since agreed to extend it back to 1922.

The probe comes after the Ryan Report uncovered decades of endemic abuse in some religious institutions in the Republic of Ireland.

Details of the Historical Institutional Abuse Bill — the legislation which determines the remit of the inquiry — were debated in the Assembly yesterday afternoon. The Bill passed the third 'Consideration Stage' after a lengthy discussion on amendments to the 23 clauses.

It was also revealed that victims could give evidence to the inquiry from anywhere in the world using a live television link.

It is expected to last two-and-a-half years but could be extended if chairman Sir Anthony Hart deems it necessary.

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