Belfast Telegraph

Victims hope for closure at clerical abuse inquiry

By Sarah Rainey

A victim of clerical abuse has said he hopes a new inquiry into historic institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland will bring decades of misery to an end.

Jon McCourt, who was abused as a child in the 1950s, said he was “delighted” that the time had finally come to face up to the situation.

Campaigners had called for a public inquiry north of the border after the Ryan Commission |report revealed a litany of horrific violence and sexual abuse that blighted a generation in the Republic.

The report, released in May last year, found that child abuse by priests and nuns was endemic, with widespread attempts to cover up serious offences.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the decision to hold a similar inquiry in Northern Ireland was an important one.

“What is very important in this is obviously a lot of people were and are victims of historic institutional abuse and need to be listened to,” he said. “They are critical in this work going forward.

“I would expect many, many more people who see the opportunity presented to them to come forward and have a crime inflicted against them recorded and be part of a legal process which will in the time ahead, hopefully, give closure to people who have for many decades felt that they were not worthy or listened to.

“We believe that they are worthy and deserve to be listened to and be treated as first-class citizens.”

The nature of the inquiry will be considered by an inter-departmental taskforce made up of nine departments headed by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) and the Department of Health.

The taskforce will look into how best to meet the needs of victims, including counselling or other services, and will report by the end of March.

It will hold talks with victims and examine experiences in other jurisdictions before the final findings are presented next summer.

Mr McCourt said: “It’s taken a long time and obviously I’m |absolutely delighted that the statement has been released before Christmas.

“It will be a relief to victims and survivors of child abuse at this time of year to know that something positive is ahead. It’s a massive relief to myself.”

Mr McCourt, who suffered abuse at the hands of the Sisters of Nazareth at the Termonbacca home in Londonderry, said he was especially glad to hear First Minister Peter Robinson mention support for victims.

“That has always been our |priority and it will encourage |people to come forward who haven’t had the confidence or |encouragement to do so before.”

He added: “What’s important now is that we, the victims, need to be involved in this.”

Mr Robinson said that he did not envisage an inquiry on the same scale as Bloody Sunday, but that |financing would depend on the nature of the inquiry decided upon.

He added: “When we spoke to survivors it was clear they did not want an inquiry that would last 10 or 15 years. Neither did they want an adversarial inquiry.”

SDLP Assembly member Conall McDevitt said the announcement was a significant step forward but only a full inquiry and apology to victims would suffice.

He said: “Survivors will be disappointed that there is no commitment at this stage to an apology.”

The decision to hold an inquiry into historic institutional abuse comes five months after victims and survivors met with ministers to discuss a way forward.

Ministers backed a motion last year calling for an assessment of the scale of abuse in Ulster.

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