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'Lives shortened by residential home abuse' victim says

Published 15/03/2016

Jon McCourt at Banbridge court house in County Down for the independent Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry
Jon McCourt at Banbridge court house in County Down for the independent Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry

Lives have been shortened by abuse in residential homes, a survivor has said.

Many of the boys and girls are no longer alive today, Jon McCourt from Survivors North West added, claiming the defenceless children had a right to truth and justice.

Mr McCourt was a resident in St Joseph's Catholic home (Termonbacca) in Derry and said he was beaten by a nun for being left -handed.

"For many survivors, the effects of the abuse have been long-lasting and harm has been passed down the generations.

"We not only expect a full apology for what was done to us, but also an acknowledgement that government has a responsibility to right those wrongs."

Mr McCourt waived his right to anonymity to tell the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry how he was punished for being left-handed.

He also told the hearing that he did not realise two other boys from the home were his brothers.

The inquiry panel is investigating abuse claims against children's residential institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995.

Victims gathered at Stormont to launch a report on redress ahead of the end of Sir Anthony Hart's lengthy Executive-ordered probe.

Mr McCourt added: "Many of the boys and girls who were in children's homes alongside us are no longer alive today. Lives have been foreshortened."

Margaret McGuckin, who represents the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA) group, said political leaders should focus on what sort of recompense system was required to respond to the suffering of generations of children.

"As in other countries where there was systemic abuse of children, victims have a right to expect the State to respond with an apology, with compensation and with other measures to deal with the effects of that cruelty.

"Our message to politicians today is: do what is right by victims and survivors. We have already been failed once. Don't fail us again."

Professor Patricia Lundy of Ulster University, who wrote the report on redress on behalf of an expert panel, said legal obligations underpinned their demands.

"The overall aim of this initiative is to ensure that an effective redress scheme is initiated without delay and that survivors play a central role in shaping such a scheme.

"We expect that survivors' voices will be heard by ministers and we are here at Stormont to ensure that they are."

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