Group alleging abuse find Stormont meeting 'positive'

 

VICTIMS OF alleged Catholic institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland have described a meeting at Stormont Castle yesterday with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as “positive and constructive”.

The group of victims are seeking a public inquiry into alleged abuse at former Stormont state-funded but Catholic-run institutions, an apology from Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness on behalf of the Northern state, and compensation for victims of abuse.

SDLP Assembly member Conall McDevitt, who accompanied four victims to the meeting with Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty, said yesterday’s encounter was the beginning of what would be a detailed process to achieve justice.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness gave no definitive public commitments yesterday, but the group expressed satisfaction that progress was made.

“There is no question in my mind but that there is a determination in the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister to begin work on the issue and put it at the centre of the Northern Executive’s agenda,” said Mr McDevitt.

John McCourt, who from a period in the mid-1950s allegedly suffered sexual and physical abuse at a home at Termonbacca in Co Derry run by the Sisters of Nazareth, said he was “very encouraged” Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness were taking the lead in finding a resolution for victims who suffered in Northern institutions. “I am convinced that the First Minister and Deputy First Minister are genuine in the assurances they have given us of moving this process forward to a point where certainly the victims and survivors of institutional abuse across the board – state, church and independent – will have their needs met and services drawn specifically to attend to the catalogue of trauma that has been suffered,” he said.

Margaret McGuckin said she suffered physical abuse while at a home run by the Sisters of Nazareth on the Ormeau Road in Belfast, from a period beginning in 1958. She said Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness promised “to endeavour to do anything that is needed to be done to get this ended”.

John Meehan, originally from Mountcharles in Co Donegal, now living in Athlone, said he was sexually and physically abused while at the Termonbacca home from 1956 to 1962. He said: “For someone who never ever walked out the front gate of an orphanage, always walking out the back gate, for me to be here today, personally, is a massive apology – just to be here, that these Ministers took time out to actually meet us, that they were here for us is a big step forward for us, for people who nobody ever trusted or believed.”

Conor Ryan, now living in London, said he was sexually and physically abused at the De La Salle Brothers home in Kircubbin in Co Down from 1957. It was important that there was speedy movement because otherwise there was danger the victims would be “dead and gone”.