Victims of institutional child abuse gathered in Belfast yesterday to have their voices heard.
Over the past year, victims’ campaigners have been pressing for an independent inquiry in Northern Ireland to investigate historical child abuse within religious and state-run institutions.
They want a probe similar to the commission which produced the Ryan Report which exposed the shocking scale of institutional child abuse in the Republic.
Yesterday a conference, supported by Amnesty International, was held at the Wellington Park Hotel to discuss how to move that process forward.
Around 150 people, including dozens of victims, many of whom have never shared their heartbreaking stories before, attended the event. Some were there to listen, while others were their to share. For one such woman, who only wanted to be known as Kate, yesterday’s conference was her chance to paint a “real picture” of the suffering she and thousands of others suffered at the hands of their abusers.
At 54, the Derry woman, who was born in Scotland, is still coming to terms with the horrific abuse she endured as a child at Nazareth House children’s home.
A brave Kate explained until yesterday she had never spoken publicly about what had happened to her all those years ago. But, she added, she did so in a bid to encourage others.
John Leatham, who spent his entire childhood and adolescence in religious and state-run homes, also believes an inquiry would serve to help victims.
He says he was physically and emotionally abused while he was under the care of nuns at Nazareth Lodge in Belfast.
Then when he turned 13 he was moved to the De La Salle boys’ home in Kircubbin, Co Down.
It was there he was sexually abused.