| 13.4°C Belfast

Abuse victims ‘fear they will never hear public apology’

Fiona Ryan told a Stormont committee that she was angry a planned apology for abuse victims was now in doubt.

Close

The Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse Fiona Ryan appeared before a Stormont committee (NI Assembly/PA)

The Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse Fiona Ryan appeared before a Stormont committee (NI Assembly/PA)

The Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse Fiona Ryan appeared before a Stormont committee (NI Assembly/PA)

Victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland fear that they will never receive the official apology which was recommended by an inquiry five years ago, MLAs have heard.

The commissioner for survivors of institutional childhood abuse Fiona Ryan told a Stormont committee that was angry, disgusted and emotional that a planned apology next month had now been placed in doubt because Northern Ireland does not have a first or deputy first minister.

Former first minister Paul Givan and then deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill announced last month the apology would be given in Parliament Buildings in Stormont on behalf of the powersharing executive on March 11.

Statements were also to be made by representatives of state and religious institutions found to have been responsible for the abuse.

The announcement was made on the fifth anniversary of the publication of the findings of the landmark inquiry, which was chaired by the late Sir Anthony Hart, a retired High Court judge.

Close

Former first minister Paul Givan and former deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill announced the apology during a visit to Londonderry last month (Kelvin Boyes/PA)

Former first minister Paul Givan and former deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill announced the apology during a visit to Londonderry last month (Kelvin Boyes/PA)

PA

Former first minister Paul Givan and former deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill announced the apology during a visit to Londonderry last month (Kelvin Boyes/PA)

It examined allegations of physical, emotional and sexual harm of children in residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

However Mr Givan’s resignation as part of a DUP protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol has forced both heads of government from the joint office.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said negotiations are under way to try to ensure the apology does go ahead next month.

Appearing before the Stormont Executive Office committee on Wednesday, Ms Ryan said victims had been looking forward to closure with the apology.

She said: “For that apology to be so close was just an incredible feeling for victims and survivors.

“The majority of victims and survivors who I have engaged with want an apology, or even if they say the apology is not important to them, they understand how important it is for closure for other victims and survivors.

“We were there on January 20 and we thought this apology was going to go ahead.

“And then last week there was this incredible sense of disbelief as the idea grew that this apology that had come so close was now hanging in the balance.

“Victims and survivors were once again collateral damage.”

Words like anger or sadness did not come close to the depth of feeling that was being shared with me on that dayFiona Ryan

Ms Ryan continued: “Words like anger or sadness did not come close to the depth of feeling that was being shared with me on that day.

“I would say disbelief, distraught, rage.

“But underneath it all there was this terrible sense that once again they are being disregarded.

“If I sound angry it is because I am.

“I am incredibly angry on behalf of victims and survivors.

“There are victims and survivors who wanted this apology who are disgusted by what has happened.”

The commissioner said options had to be explored so the public apology could go ahead next month.

She said: “I understand the Executive Office is engaging with victims and survivors bilaterally to understand consensus around what might be available.

“But what I am hearing from speaking and listening is that the majority want this apology to go ahead on March 11.

“I fear if this apology does not go ahead it will cast forever the impression that victims and survivors are to be discarded and disregarded and they have had a lifetime of this.”

Close

Fiona Ryan, commissioner for survivors of institutional childhood abuse (Cosica/PA)

Fiona Ryan, commissioner for survivors of institutional childhood abuse (Cosica/PA)

PA

Fiona Ryan, commissioner for survivors of institutional childhood abuse (Cosica/PA)

She added: “They have never heard the words ‘I am sorry, you were not to blame’, and they now desperately fear they will never have the opportunity to hear the institutions and the Executive say those words.

“I am sitting here talking with you and I am emotional, I am incredibly angry.

“I am saddened but I have a hope we can go forward with this.

“My recommendation to the committee is that we look at every possible way forward to make this apology happen.”

Solicitor Owen Beattie, from KRW Law, which acts on behalf of a number of victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse, said every possible effort was needed to deliver on the apology.

He said: “Any further timeline slippage past March only serves to compound the anger and hurt felt by survivors.

“We have written tonight to the Executive and other engaged agencies with some proposals to address the issue. What needs addressed is finding consensus across all sectors on who should deliver the apology in place of the first and deputy first ministers.

“We are confident that with a lateral approach on this key issue then a remedy can be found. For example, the existing ministers who remain in office present as an option and that features in our representations.

“There’s a real danger that delivery of any apology now is already tainted and somewhat hollow, indeed something of an afterthought. Victims deserve better.”


Top Videos



Privacy