Belfast Telegraph

More pressure over abuse inquiry

A memorial to victims of the Magdalene Laundries in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin
A memorial to victims of the Magdalene Laundries in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

Victims groups have stepped up pressure on the Stormont Executive to widen its historical institutional abuse inquiry.

Clerical abuse victims and former residents of Magdalene laundry-type institutions in Northern Ireland said there was no justification for their exclusion from the investigation headed by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart and have launched a joint campaign calling for the remit to be immediately extended.

Michael Connolly, a victim of clerical child sex abuse in Fermanagh in the early 1970s, said: "The Northern Ireland inquiry into institutional child abuse is very welcome but it does nothing for me and the many other victims of clerical abuse who were molested in locations outside children's homes or who suffered as adult women in Magdalene laundry-style homes. Our abuse was no less and our call for justice is no less deserving of being heard."

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was set up to investigate allegations of child abuse in 35 children's homes and other state-run institutions. It is examining cases from 1922 to 1995 and will determine if there were systemic failings by the state or institutions in their duties towards children aged under 18.

It has already begun hearing evidence from victims through an acknowledgement forum. There has been some opposition to extending the scope of the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry because of cost and time implications but clerical and Magdalene laundry victims claim everyone has the right to justice.

"Everybody deserves to speak their truth. We have all got human rights, we have all been violated by people for their own gratification. As children we have been dis-empowered all our lives and it is time that we had an opportunity to take back that power that was taken away from us for all these years," added Mr Connolly.

A total of 12 Magdalene-style laundries were set up across Northern Ireland where unmarried mothers were coerced into giving up their children and forced to work for free under appalling conditions.

One 51-year-old woman from Co Tyrone, who declined to be named, spent over two years in a laundry in Newry. Her signature on an adoption form was forged and she never saw her son. "I do hope that there is something not only for me but for everybody involved that everybody gets a piece of something back. We take this to our grave," she said.

Amnesty International, which has backed the joint campaign, said research commissioned by the organisation showed there was compelling evidence for an effective human rights response from the Executive.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director, said: "We see no reason why clerical abuse victims and victims of Magdalene Laundry type institutions should be excluded from justice."

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