Abuse survivors face Stormont crisis delay in search for justice

Jon McCourt, Survivors (North West).
Jon McCourt, Survivors (North West).

The chairman of a group set up to help victims of historical institutional abuse has expressed concern at the impact of the latest Stormont crisis on their search for justice.

Jon McCourt, chairperson Survivors (North West), explained that the Report of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was to be reviewed by the First and Deputy First Minister before being officially published and passed to the Northern Ireland Executive. With an election now likely this will be delayed. The report, however, will be made public next week.

Mr McCourt said: “The resignation of the Deputy First Minister and with it the removal of the First Minister could not have come at a worse time for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse. It appears that without both ministers being in office there will be no review of the report and therefore no action taken on it.

“Victims and survivors are understandably anxious that their involvement and the trust they placed in the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry appears to have come to nothing. After discussions this afternoon (Monday) certainly we have reason for concern. Not about the report, or of its contents, but of governments capability to receive, discuss and approve whatever recommendations the report may contain.

“However as the report was submitted to the First and Deputy First Minister last Friday, Sir Anthony Hart intends to publish the report as scheduled on Friday 20th January in Belfast, albeit without having an Executive to pass the report on to and at this time take action on it. This is disheartening and frustrating for all of us.

“We had hoped to see a speedy resolution taken on recommendations contained in the Historical Institutional Abuse Report following its publication. Victims and survivors are entitled and still expect that to be the case. It means without the Executive approval, justice will be delayed, not denied, at least until a new Executive is in place.”

Mr McCourt continued that with the publication of the report, the scale of systemic abuse in the institutions that were responsible for the ‘care and protection’ of children will be there for all to see.

“Christine Smith, senior counsel to the inquiry, in her opening statement on the 13th January 2014, stated: ‘By examining how vulnerable children, living in children’s Homes in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995 were treated, this inquiry will essentially examine the soul of Northern Irish society over that period.’

“We as Victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse demand and justice demands, action on the recommendations that will be contained in the examination of that soul. We expect the report to be substantive and comprehensive but we also expect the recommendations to be endorsed and implemented without delay by a future Executive and Assembly.”

Survivors (North West) went on to say it will continue to engage with all of those who can influence the delivery of “the deserved outcome” for victims.

. and survivors.