Abuse inquiry report calls for public apology and compensation for victims

Evidence of sexual, physical and emotional abuse across 22 Catholic and Protestant and state run homes investigated

A public apology and compensation payments should be made to children who suffered abuse in Northern Ireland church and state run institutions over many decades, an inquiry has found.

The report of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry, published on Friday, found evidence of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, neglect and unacceptable practices across the 22 Catholic and Protestant and state run homes and institutions that it investigated.

The only two of the 22 homes where there was no evidence of "systemic failings" was at Hydebank juvenile detention centre in south Belfast and at Barnardo's Sharonmore near Newtownabbey on the outskirts of north Belfast, the inquiry found.

Not all types of abuse occurred in all the homes and there were “some institutions where some forms of abuse were more prevalent than others”.

The inquiry “identified failings where institutions sought to protect their reputations and individuals against whom allegations were made by failing to take any action at all, failing to report matters to or deliberately misleading the appropriate authorities and moving those against whom allegations were made to other locations.

"This enabled some to continue perpetrating abuse against children," it said, in a reference to among others serial abuser Fr Brendan Smyth who also was specifically investigated by the inquiry.

The inquiry in its 2,300-page 12-volume report, also found that those institutions that sent up to 144 young children to Australia were wrong to do so and engaged in a project that was "gravely defective". It found there were failures to ensure the children were sent to suitable homes, that contact was maintained and that truthful information was provided to parents as to their children's whereabouts.

The report comes after after four years work and testimony from over 500 witnesses. It’s final cost is expected to be in the region of £13 million.

The inquiry, chaired by retired High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart recommended compensation payments of up to £100,000 be paid to victims of abuse, with payments administered by a new body, the HIA Redress Board.

Payments would range from a minimum of £7,500 to a maximum payment of £80,000 depending on the level of abuse. In addition those sent to Australia each would receive an additional £20,000. Payments would be tax-free and not affect welfare benefits.

The inquiry also recommended that the Northern Executive and those responsible for each of the institutions where systemic failings were identified should make a public apology to the victims. The apology should be made on a “single occasion at a suitable venue”.

“The apology should be wholehearted and unconditional recognition that they failed to protect children from abuse that could and should have been prevented or detected,” it recommended.

A physical memorial to victims should also "be erected in Parliament Buildings or in the grounds of the Stormont estate as a reminder to legislators and others of what many children experienced in residential homes".

It further proposed that a commissioner for survivors of institutional abuse be appointed to act as an advocate for children abused in institutions in the North between 1922 and 1995.

Sir Anthony acknowledged that because of the Assembly elections fixed for March 2nd caused by the “cash for ash” debacle, there will be a “significant delay in considering and implementing our recommendations”.

“We appreciate the intense disappointment this will cause to all those affected, and we recognise that there may be calls for interim payments of compensation. However, experience in the past has shown that all too often interim payments prolong the final resolution of claims,” he added.

“We therefore urge the new Executive and Assembly to give effect to our recommendations and to do so as a matter of priority after the election. We believe that those who have waited so long for their voices to be heard deserve no less,” the chairman said.

In relation to Brendan Smyth, who the inquiry was told may have abused more than 200 children at various locations and in different countries, it found that he was able to carry out his activities “due to the failure of the Roman Catholic Church to properly address his behaviour from before he was ordained as a priest, despite clear warnings”.

“There was repeated failure to assess the risk he posed to children, to confine him to his abbey, to thoroughly investigate allegations of abuse, to notify the police and social services and to share information between dioceses and report matters to the appropriate civil and ecclesiastical authorities.”

Sir Anthony’s report was dismissive of allegations that elements of the British secret services were implicated in facilitating a paedophile ring to operate at Kincora boys’ home in east Belfast during the Troubles.

It is claimed that up to 30 boys were abused at the home between the late 1950s and the early 1980s. In 1981 three senior staff - William McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains - were imprisoned for abusing 11 boys.

Sir Anthony addressed allegations that MI5 and/or MI6 may have facilitated the abuse of children for blackmail purposes during the Troubles in the 1970s and early 1980s.

"There have been frequent allegations that various individuals, including Sir Maurice Oldfield, a former head of the (British) Secret Intelligence Service who was later the security coordinator in Northern Ireland, and a number of named and unnamed Northern Ireland Office civil servants and unnamed businessmen and other prominent figures resorted to Kincora for sexual purposes," his report stated.

“We are satisfied there is no credible evidence to support any of these allegations” it said. “We are satisfied that Kincora was not a homosexual brothel, nor used by any of the security agencies as a ‘honey pot’ to entrap, blackmail or otherwise exploit homosexuals.”

Under the proposals voluntary institutions found guilty of systemic failings should be asked to make “an appropriate financial contribution” to the compensation fund.

Victims who already have received compensation will not be able to claim twice. Those who have brought civil claims which have not been resolved would be free to apply to the HIA Redress Board but would have to abandon their civil claims to do so.

Relatives of victims who died after the Northern Executive on September 29th 2011 announced there would be an inquiry would be entitled to 75 per cent of awards.

The 22 homes/institutions investigated were:

Local Authority Homes

Lissue Hospital, Lisburn

Kincora Boys’ Home, Belfast

Bawnmore Children’s Home, Newtownabbey

Fort James and Harberton House, Derry (added May 2015)

Juvenile Justice Institutions

St Patrick’s Training School, Belfast

Lisnevin Training School, County Down

Rathgael Training School, Bangor

Hydebank Young Offenders’ Centre (added May 2015)

Millisle Borstal (added November 2015)

Secular Voluntary Homes

Barnardo’s Sharonmore Project, Newtownabbey

Barnardo’s Macedon, Newtownabbey

Roman Catholic Voluntary Homes

St Joseph’s Home, Termonbacca, Derry

Nazareth House Children’s Home, Derry

Nazareth House Children’s Home, Belfast

Nazareth Lodge Children’s Home, Belfast

De La Salle Boys’ Home, Rubane House, Kircubbin

St Joseph’s Training School for Girls, Middletown, Co Armagh (added November 2015)

Institutions run by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Derry, Belfast and Newry (added November 2015)

Church of Ireland

Manor House, a children’s home near Lisburn (added November 2015)