Belfast Telegraph

Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry chief asks for a one-year extension

By Amanda Ferguson

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister are to recommend a one-year extension to the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry.

This follows a request from the chairman of the inquiry, Sir Anthony Hart.

The HIA inquiry has a remit to investigate physical, emotional and sexual childhood abuse and neglect which occurred in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period up to 1995.

Sir Anthony is currently due to deliver his final report to the Executive in January 2016, but should the extra time be approved, his report would not be submitted until January 18, 2017.

It would require an amendment to the terms of reference of the inquiry, which will be brought before the Assembly.

A decision regarding the request Sir Anthony has said he made with "considerable reluctance" is not expected before the autumn.

The former judge added: "On the basis of our experience to date, we are now in a position to calculate how many sitting days it will take to call all the witnesses who wish to give evidence from every institution, and each individual whom we will, or will probably, investigate.

"Should our request for an extension of one year be granted, we will of course continue to make every effort to complete our work in a shorter time should that be possible."

A statement from OFMDFM acknowledged the complex nature of the inquiry and recommended the extension is approved.

"We do not underestimate the complexities of dealing with institutional abuse," the statement said.

"We must ensure that the inquiry provides every opportunity for those impacted by the allegations of institutional abuse to be heard in an open forum.

"Sir Anthony Hart made a very persuasive and compelling case for a one year extension to the timeframe."

It added: "We will now make recommendations to the Executive to agree to the chairman's request."

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