Northern Ireland: Child abuse inquiry must deliver truth and justice for victims

‘I will be shocked if the Inquiry finds anything less than catastrophic and systemic failure’ - Patrick Corrigan 

Northern Ireland’s institutional child abuse inquiry will be judged on whether it delivers truth and justice for victims, Amnesty International has said ahead of publication of the Inquiry’s report later today (Friday 20 January).

The Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry has investigated 22 homes or institutions, as well as the circumstances surrounding the sending of child migrants from Northern Ireland to Australia and the activities of serial child abuser Fr Brendan Smyth. The statutory inquiry, which covers the period 1922 to 1995, sat for 223 days of hearings and heard from hundreds of witnesses. It was established by legislation passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly after a campaign led by abuse victims and supported by Amnesty International.

In advance of the publication of the report later today (Friday) in Belfast, Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director, who campaigned for a public inquiry, said:

“After four years of work, more than two hundred days of public hearings and having heard from hundreds of witnesses, victims will finally hear the verdict of this Inquiry.

“This child abuse inquiry will be judged on the extent to which it delivers truth and justice for victims.

“Having sat through some of the Inquiry’s hearings, I will be shocked if it finds anything less than catastrophic and systemic failure by the State, and by the religious bodies and others who ran homes, in upholding their duty of care to the children for whom they were acting in loco parentis.

“Not only will victims deserve full and wholehearted apologies from government and from the Church authorities and others who were responsible for running homes where children were abused, but also reparation, including financial compensation, to which they have a right.

“While the Inquiry’s terms of reference do not permit it to establish individual culpability for abuse perpetrated against children, victims will rightly expect that any evidence uncovered by the inquiry which points to potential criminal wrongdoing will be passed to the police for investigation, with a view to possible prosecution.

“I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many child abuse victims and survivors who courageously told and relived their experiences of childhood abuse to the Inquiry, in the hope and expectation that such horrors will never be visited on future generations.

“I would also like to put on record our thanks to Sir Anthony Hart, the other Inquiry panel members and staff for the diligent manner in which they have conducted their work.”

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