'Time for justice' for child abuse victims - Amnesty announces major conference in Belfast

Amnesty International has announced details of a major conference to be held in Belfast next month to press for an independent inquiry into institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland.

The Time For Justice conference will bring together abuse survivors, campaigners, counsellors and politicians in Northern Ireland with counterparts from the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere, including prominent campaigners and investigators. The event will take place at the Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast on 7 October.

Among the speakers will be Andrew Madden, who, in 1995 became the first clerical abuse victim to go public in Ireland, and Bernadette Fahy, who experienced abuse at Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin and went on to found the Aislinn Centre for survivors of institutional abuse. Also addressing the conference will be Norah Gibbons and Marian Shanley, members of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which produced the Ryan Report, which found that institutional child abuse in the Republic of Ireland was "endemic and widespread" and that the government and religious orders failed to protect Children's rights or to investigate complaints.

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan said:

'Amnesty is very focused on the need for long overdue justice for the many Children's rights - now adults - who suffered abuse in institutions in Northern Ireland. The need for an independent, impartial and effective inquiry into this historical abuse now rests with the Northern Ireland Executive for decision.

'While we have been assured by the First and Deputy First Minister that they wish to deal with this matter effectively and without undue delay, it is crucial that an inquiry and redress process are structured to meet the needs of victims and meet international human rights standards. It is on these twin objectives that the Time For Justice conference will focus.

'It will bring together key actors – victims and survivors, campaigners, commissioners and counsellors - from the inquiry and redress processes in the Republic of Ireland and Scotland to share their experiences, so that lessons may be learned in Northern Ireland.

'This conference should prove useful to all those from the public and voluntary sectors interested or likely to be involved in making decisions on the scope of an inquiry process and the need for redress and support.'

Margaret McGuckin, of the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse group, has welcomed the conference:

'This event demonstrates that we are becoming more organised and that we have people like Amnesty International on our side. That says that we are not going away and we are not going to give up our fight for justice. We want more people to join us in our campaign and for more victims and survivors to come forward to tell their stories and be ready to deal with an inquiry.

'We are determined that a proper inquiry should be established and that justice should be done for the hundreds of victims across Northern Ireland. We have to keep the pressure on government as we refuse to be ignored and forgotten about again.'

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