A number of organisations have apologised for the abuse suffered by children in their care in Northern Ireland.
Publishing its long-awaited report today, the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry found that hundreds of victims of historic child abuse in the province should receive a government-funded compensation payout and an official apology.
Inquiry chair Sir Anthony Hart outlined a series of recommendations after he revealed shocking levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse in a number of children’s homes.
Following the publication of the inquiry’s findings, De La Salle Brothers issued a statement expressing its “deeply regret” that boys in their care were abused.
It added: “We offer our sincere and unreserved apology to all those whom we failed to protect. The De La Salle Order has previously acknowledged that some of its members and lay staff abused innocent victims whilst at Rubane Boys’ Home or St Patrick’s Training School.
“That some Brothers abused boys in their care was in total contradiction of their vocations as De la Salle Brothers and of their mission as established by our founder, namely to look after the welfare and educational needs of deprived, vulnerable and abandoned children.”
Meanwhile, the Sisters of Nazareth Order stated: “We again apologise to anyone who has suffered abuse whether psychological, physical, sexual or neglect on any occasion when the sisters’ standard of care fell below what was expected of them.
“It was always the desire of the order to provide a safe place for children and when we failed on any occasion, we want to express our deepest regret.”
Accepting the report, the Sisters of St Louis said: “We are saddened that any child suffered while under our care at the former St. Joseph’s Training School, Middletown and we offer a heartfelt apology.
“We appreciate how difficult it must have been for the eight former residents to come forward to tell their stories and hope that the conclusions of the Inquiry will bring healing and hope to their lives.”
The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) also offered an apology and said it will now spend time considering the recommendations in full, in conjunction with the Department of Health and all Health and Social Care (HSC) organisations.
A spokesperson for the HSCB said: “We are very aware from our knowledge and experience as Health and Social Care professionals, and reinforced by attending the hearings throughout the duration of the Inquiry, of the devastating impact that all forms of child abuse can have on children and how this can persist into adulthood.
“We are saddened to know that such abuse happened both to children in our care, as well as to those not known to us and privately placed in Voluntary Children’s Homes.
“Therefore on behalf of the HSC we would offer a sincere apology for anything that our staff either did or failed to do, which led to such abuse occurring.”
Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin said he was “ashamed” and truly sorry”, adding: “I know well that my words are inadequate in attempting to address the enormity of the harshness and brutality which many innocent children experienced. There is never an excuse for the abuse and ill treatment of children or any vulnerable person, in any setting.
“When the perpetrator is a priest or religious, it is also an appalling betrayal of a sacred trust. I am ashamed and I am truly sorry that such abuse occurred, and that in many cases children and young people felt deprived of love and were left with a deep and lasting suffering.”
Welcoming the report, the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma hoped its findings would “bring some vindication to those who lost their childhoods to these heinous actions and crimes”.