HIA inquiry report '˜will vindicate claims of abuse'

A man who says he went crazy after suffering abuse in a Londonderry children's home is confident that a report on institutional abuse will vindicate his claims.

Friday, 20th January 2017, 8:00 am
John McCourt is confident the report will vindicate his story

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry is due to publish its findings today.

Evidence from 428 witnesses during 223 days of hearings outlined claims of brutality and sex abuse dating back to the 1920s at the homes across Northern Ireland. Some of those allegations have been challenged by the religious orders involved.

John McCourt of the North West Survivors Group spent 10 years in St Joseph’s Home in Termonbacca, Londonderry, which was run by the sisters of Nazareth.

“I am certainly worried and concerned – not about the content of the report – but about what will happen to the recommendations in it now that there is no Executive,” he said.

He expects the report will be “a damning indictment” of a system which failed children in its care, having attended almost 100 days of hearings.

“I watched the reaction of the chairman and panel and the reaction from the legal representatives of the religious orders and social services. They were very defensive.

“The system was corrupt and brutal and destroyed the lives of many children.”

Mr McCourt was only three when he was put into the home. He had no idea he had two brothers in the same facility, he said, as they were in different sections.

“We did not even have names, we were given numbers. I was number 10.”

Mr McCourt was in the home for 10 years and later went “crazy” as a result. “I did not know where I belonged.”

He came to terms with his past in his mid-30s.

Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart chaired an independent panel which investigated such testimonies, helped by a team of lawyers and researchers.

Sir Anthony has already indicated that compensating victims will be among his recommendations.

Stormont ministers will have to decide on what happens next amid a crisis engulfing power-sharing.

The public inquiry was ordered by Stormont’s ministerial Executive following pressure from alleged victims and similar probes in the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere.

It was created in 2013 to investigate child abuse in residential institutions over a 73-year period, up to 1995.

The inquiry’s terms of reference do not permit it to establish individual culpability for abuse perpetrated against children.

However, Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International said that victims expect any evidence uncovered will be passed to the police with a view to possible prosecution.