Saturday, October 31, 2009

Abuse survivors in North seek Ryan-style inquiry

VICTIMS OF child abuse in Northern church and state institutions have called for a public inquiry similar to the Ryan report.

Solicitor Joe Rice has said he received representations from what he called “a significant number” of abuse survivors, understood to be in the hundreds, and has written to the heads of the Stormont Executive to press for an inquiry.

They believe they have been discriminated against, as investigations of child abuse initiated in the Republic did not extend to Northern Ireland.

Mr Rice, in his letter to First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, referred to those who suffered all forms of abuse and neglect in Northern Ireland since 1947.

“It is apparent that the level of abuse was widespread and endemic, and moreover that all the institutions involved had a duty of care to those children placed in their trust, and responsibility under the different statutory frameworks in the post-war period,” he wrote.

Mr Rice is arguing that Mr Robinson’s and Mr McGuinness’s office, along with the Departments of Health and Education, are “the principal successors in title to those institutions” that he alleges were responsible for the abuse over the past 50 years.

“These aforementioned bodies were also responsible for the regulation and administration of these homes and institutions,” he wrote.

“On behalf of our clients who are the victims of such abuse in Northern Ireland, we respectfully request the responsible Ministers within the Northern Ireland Executive to establish an inquiry under the relevant legislation to inquire into child abuse in this jurisdiction in the post-war period.”

His letter specifically refers to the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in the Republic, and “respectfully suggests” this should be the model for an inquiry in Northern Ireland.

Mr Rice suggests Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward should co-operate with the Stormont Executive and authorise “appropriate funding” which would enable victims of abuse and neglect to seek redress through both civil and criminal law.

He cited the investigation into a sex scandal at the Kincora Boys’ Home in east Belfast in the 1980s as a template for the new inquiry which he wants to be held.
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