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Northern Ireland: Abuse survivors unite to tell politicians what they want from redress

Victims of historic child abuse in Northern Ireland are urging the Stormont Executive to provide redress for the suffering experienced in residential institutions.

Abuse survivors have told MLAs that they want the next Northern Ireland Executive to set up a comprehensive redress system, to include financial compensation, counselling services, access to childhood records, family tracing and a full apology for the sexual, physical and emotional abuse suffered in children’s homes.  

The former residents of children’s homes across Northern Ireland came together at Parliament Buildings today to launch a report which sets out the findings of research conducted by a new Expert Panel on Redress, comprising representatives from a range of victims’ groups, Amnesty International and other national and international experts. The panel has been convened by Professor Patricia Lundy of Ulster University, who authored today’s report which is based on a series of discussions with approximately 75 abuse survivors. The work of the panel has been facilitated by experts at Ulster University.

More than twenty children's institutions in Northern Ireland are under investigation by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in relation to allegations of historical institutional abuse or neglect. The Inquiry, headed by Sir Anthony Hart, is due to complete its public hearings and investigative work by mid-summer 2016, and will submit its report to the Northern Ireland Executive by mid-January 2017.

Margaret McGuckin, of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA), said:

“As we move closer to the end of the Abuse Inquiry, it is right to start focusing minds at Stormont on what sort of redress system is required to respond to the suffering experienced by generations of children in Northern Ireland. As in other countries where there was systemic abuse of children, victims have a right to expect the State to respond with an apology, with compensation and with other measures to deal with the effects of that cruelty. Our message to politicians today is: do what is right by victims and survivors. We have already been failed once. Don’t fail us again.”

Jon McCourt, of victims group Survivors North West, said:

“Those who suffered abuse as defenceless children have a clear right to truth and justice. Part of justice must be reparation for the harms we all experienced. We have consulted with scores of other victims about what sort of redress they expected and the report we launch today is what they told us.

“Many of the boys and girls who were in children’s homes alongside us are no longer alive today. Lives have been foreshortened. For many survivors, the effects of the abuse have been long-lasting and harm has been passed down the generations. We not only expect a full apology for what was done to us, but also an acknowledgment that government has a responsibility to right those wrongs.”

Professor Patricia Lundy of Ulster University, who authored the report on behalf of the Expert Panel, said:

“The focus of this report is what survivors of historical residential institutional abuse want from redress and the legal obligations that underpin such demands. The overall aim of this initiative is to ensure that an effective redress scheme is initiated without delay and that survivors play a central role in shaping such a scheme. We expect that survivors’ voices will be heard by Ministers and we are here at Stormont to ensure that they are.”

The new report, What Survivors Want From Redress, was launched today in Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

The report was commissioned by the Panel of Experts on Redress. The Panel is an independent initiative made up of survivor groups, individual survivors, academics, lawyers, human rights organisations, practitioners and national and international experts. The Panel’s remit is to determine what survivors want from redress; define the elements of redress; and what type of mechanism(s) could deliver redress to meet the needs of survivors.

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Report: What Survivors Want From Redress