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‘Pope must not overlook suffering in Northern Ireland’

By Deborah McAleese

Pope Benedict XVI must not overlook the suffering of those who were abused while in the care of Church-run institutions in Northern Ireland, a victim of institutional abuse has said.

Margaret McGuckin, who was abused while in the care of the Nazareth Sisters in Belfast in the 1950s and 60s, said there must be recognition for those who suffered horrific abuse at the hands of nuns and priests in Church-run schools and orphanages here.

“The Pope needs to tidy this up everywhere, not just for the victims in the south. The victims in Northern Ireland need to be included in this. Hopefully we will get a mention in all of this,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

Margaret, who is at the fore of a major campaign for the Northern Ireland Executive to conduct a full assessment of the level of physical and emotional child abuse within institutes run by the religious orders, vowed not to back down until the suffering of the province’s victims was recognised.

She said that Northern Ireland needed to have its own Ryan-style report, which was published in the Republic last year. “More and more people are coming forward with their stories of the abuse they suffered. We are not going to be going away, our voices will not be silenced. We will not stop until we get counselling, recognition and an apology for what we went through.

“How can we stop now? All of this pain needs to be dealt with in a positive way,” said Margaret.

She added that, to date, not one Stormont minister has given a commitment to the victims to publicly acknowledge the abuse.

“It is an absolute disgrace, that even though they know this happened, not one Stormont minister will stand up and publicly acknowledge it. It has to be dealt with,” she said.

Meanwhile SDLP health spokesperson Conall McDevitt has also urged the Catholic Church to support the Murphy Inquiry into clerical child abuse being extended to Northern Ireland. The South Belfast MLA has also called on the Health Minister to formally acknowledge that the Executive has a duty to uphold the rights of survivors of abuse and seek redress on their behalf.

“Survivors across Ireland need to see action and resolve from the Catholic Church and much greater acknowledgement of the responsibilities the Northern Ireland Executive has to the survivors,” he said.

Mr McDevitt said they will continue to press the minister to deliver his paper to the Executive so survivors of clerical and institutional abuse can “rightly seek the justice and redress that they are entitled to”.

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