Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Inquiry into abuse is welcomed but victims still seeking apology

They welcomed news of an inquiry into institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland, but victims are disappointed that there has been no commitment to an apology for what they suffered while in the care of religious organisations.

The victims have campaigned for months for a probe into clerical wrongdoing, similar to that which unmasked widespread cases in the Irish Republic.

Last week First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness finally announced that an inquiry was to be established, with a task force made up of nine departments headed by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) and the Department of Health.

The task force will report by the end of March on meeting the needs of victims.

A legal firm representing a group of victims said yesterday, however, that the news that the Government has taken a significant step forward is positive, but survivors are also disappointed that there is no commitment at this stage to an apology.

McAteer & Co Solicitors said it is “concerned that the critical issues for survivors are addressed, such as a non-contentious redress scheme, counselling and services generally”.

A number of the legal firm’s clients are forming an abuse survivors group and the firm said it will be working with them “to help them formalise their campaign, as the inter-departmental group proposes to consult with various bodies”.

In May last year a report by the Ryan Commission revealed a catalogue of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in the Irish Re

public by priests and nuns as well as attempts to cover up the truth and move offenders between parishes.

Northern Ireland victims have met the OFMDFM to seek a similar process to the Ryan Commission.

First Minister Peter Robinson said he does not envisage an inquiry of the scale of Bloody Sunday, adding: “If it is an inquiry that is more investigative which can be done with fewer personnel, then it is very much a smaller figure.”

Belfast woman Margaret McGuckin, who suffered years of abuse while in the care of the Nazareth Sisters at Nazareth House girls’ home on the Ormeau Road, said while she was pleased that moves have been made towards an inquiry, “we are not about to get too exited yet”.

Amnesty International has said it will be seeking to ensure the inquiry meets the needs of victims and the human rights obligations of Government.

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