Victims of institutional abuse urged to come forward as poster campaign launched
More than 170 people have come forward to an inquiry investigating institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.
The inquiry, chaired by retired High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart, was this morning due to launch a further appeal for victims of institutional child abuse to make contact.
In the coming days, posters appealing to abuse survivors will be placed at 80 bus shelters and in GP surgeries and hospitals across Northern Ireland.
The inquiry began its work on January 19, following an announcement by the Executive in September 2011.
It is examining allegations of abuse at children's homes and care institutions in the province. The inquiry will also look at whether systemic failings in these institutions failed to prevent abuse.
An Acknowledgement Forum, which is assisting the inquiry, is focusing on the impact of the abuse on survivors. Among the forum's members is Norah Gibbons, a commissioner for the Ryan Inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Ireland.
Over 170 people have already sent applications to the forum recounting experiences of abuse or indicating their intention to give evidence to the Inquiry.
Nearly 80% of those people are from Northern Ireland, while 14% live in Great Britain. A small number (6%) live in the Republic.
The forum has already interviewed 89 of those who have made contact. The inquiry has not detailed names of specific institutions which might be the subject of its investigation.
The campaign is to be officially launched at St Anne's Square in Belfast today.
"Sir Anthony wishes to ensure that as many victims and survivors as possible are made aware of the existence of the inquiry, and of the steps it is taking to try to address the fears of those who may be worried about lifting the telephone to talk," a spokeswoman said.
"The inquiry appreciates that, for many victims and survivors, recounting their experiences can be very painful and traumatic," she added.
• Application forms for the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry can be downloaded from www.hiainquiry.org, or by calling the Inquiry helpline on freephone 0800 068 4935.
The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry will commence public hearings in the autumn.
The Executive, which set up the Inquiry, has stipulated that it should conclude its investigation within two years and six months of its start date.
Under this timeframe, the Inquiry is scheduled to complete its hearings and investigative work by summer 2015 and submit its report to the Executive by January 18, 2016.
However, the Executive has said that it would be prepared to consider a request for an extension to the initial timeframe.