Victims feel vindicated following abuse inquiry findings, says survivors’ group
Religious orders named in Historical Institutional Abuse report express regret
Margaret McGuckin of SAVIA said report is what victims have ‘waited a lifetime for’.
A Belfast woman representing survivors of child abuse in care homes in the North says they feel vindicated following the publication of the the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry report which found evidence of systematic failure by institutions and the state.
“We have waited a lifetime. Today we are vindicated. Our day has come,” said Margaret McGuckin.
The 2,300 page, 12-volume report published on Friday comes after an inquiry was set up to investigate physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and childhood neglect which occurred in residential institutions over a 73-year period up to 1995.
Ms McGuckin of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA) – who suffered abuse from the age of three in Nazareth House in Belfast – hopes to meet Stormont politicians early next week to iron out details of the compensation scheme recommended by the inquiry team.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director, said the report “laid bare the catastrophic failure by the state, and by religious bodies and others who ran children’s homes over a period of more than 70 years”.
Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Eamon Martin said he understood victims may find it hard to forgive or find reconciliation with the Church and that it was serious about “making reparation for the sins and crimes of the past”.
Bishop of Kilmore Leo O’Reilly said the Catholic Church “cannot be, and should never have been, a safe harbour for anyone responsible for abuse” and The Irish Norbertines, of which Fr Brendan Smyth was a member, said it recognised “the tragic harm and hurt caused to innocent children” by him.
The Sisters of St Louis, the Sisters of Nazareth Order and Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, were among those apologising unreservedly and saying they will reflect on the contents of the report, while the De La Salle Brothers said they “accept and deeply regret that boys in our care were abused”.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton apologised unreservedly for the police failings identified in the report and offered assurances the approach to dealing with child abuse had changed radically since the days of the RUC.
Stormont health minister Michelle O’Neill acknowledged the suffering of victims and the Health and Social Care Board said it is offering victims “counselling and mental health services to support them through any trauma they are experiencing”.
Executive director of the One in Four charity Maeve Lewis said the revelations in Northern Ireland mirror those exposed by the 2009 Ryan Report into institutional abuse in the Republic and urged anyone with distressing memories to “reach out and ask for support”.
Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart said the Assembly election on March 2nd will mean a “significant delay” in implementing its recommendations and urged the new Executive and Assembly to give effect to them as a matter of priority.
“We believe that those who have waited so long for their voices to be heard deserve no less.”
A statement from the Executive Office said it was its intention “to put the report to the Executive at the earliest opportunity”.