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Editor's Viewpoint

Error must not delay justice for NI victims

Editor's Viewpoint


Solicitor Claire McKeegan

Solicitor Claire McKeegan

Solicitor Claire McKeegan

In the overall scheme of things, the survivors of historical institutional abuse are, arguably, one of the most marginalised groups in Northern Ireland.

Because they do not fall easily into Orange or Green camps, their plight has often been overlooked in a society which is happier dealing with simple binaries.

Therefore, their struggle to be recognised has often relied on their own efforts.

The appointment of the former victims' commissioner Brendan McAllister as the interim victims' advocate in July 2019 was therefore widely welcomed as signifying a new, and much-needed, determination to deliver justice for the survivors.

However, having been in post for only 11 months, Mr McAllister was facing calls last night to resign after the identities of 250 survivors were revealed in an e-mailing error.

Last week a monthly newsletter was circulated by the office of the Interim Victims' Advocate, but crucially without the names of the recipients being anonymised. This was sent by a staff member, but transmitted on Mr McAllister's behalf.

The solicitor Claire McKeegan, who represents some of the survivors, described it as "a massive breach of confidence". Mr McAllister has apologised for the "unfortunate development" and has referred the matter to the Information Commissioner's Office.

Claims for a breach of privacy and the General Data Protection Regulation could reach millions of pounds. The Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie, who has worked with a number of survivors, has called on Mr McAllister to stand down.

However, as in the case of the Prime Minister's chief adviser Dominic Cummings, who is accused of breaking lockdown rules, whether Brendan McAllister stays or goes depends on the support of his boss.

He was appointed by the head of the Civil Service David Sterling, but ultimately his position will depend on whether or not he still enjoys the confidence of the power-sharing Executive.

Nevertheless it is a moot point whether or not Mr McAllister's resignation would achieve anything substantial for the survivors.

What is clear is the fact that they have been sidelined for far too long.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

The survivors of historical institution abuse deserve closure, and nothing must be allowed to impede its delivery.

Belfast Telegraph