The chairman of the UK’s largest ever child abuse inquiry has praised representatives of various residential care homes for making apologies at the start of the process.
Sir Anthony Hart was speaking in Banbridge courthouse yesterday at the second day of public evidence in the Independent Historical Abuse Inquiry.
It will hear from over 300 witnesses in relation to 13 residential institutions in Northern Ireland, spanning 73 years up until 1995.
Sir Anthony yesterday commended representatives from key participants for their “willingness to work in a sensible and cooperative fashion” rather than “keeping their cards as close to their chests for as long as possible”.
He urged “wholehearted cooperation from everyone” and commended the core participants for apologies made yesterday.
Speaking for the Catholic De La Salle order, Kevin Rooney QC said: “They accept and deeply regret that boys in their care were abused. They wish to offer their sincere and unreserved apology to all those whom they failed to protect.”
He added: “De La Salle order deeply regrets the acts of some of its members which have irreparably damaged the reputation of the order and undermines the selfless care provided by so many of the brothers in pursuance of their vocation.”
The legal representative for Barnardos, which has two homes under scrutiny, said it welcomed the opportunity to learn from the inquiry and “recognised it had a duty of care to former residents”.
Moira Smyth, speaking for the Health and Social Care Board, said: “Where the board failed to meet acceptable standards for the care and upbringing of children in institutions and that resulted in wrongdoing, the board is sorry and offers its apologies to the individuals concerned.”
Turlough Montague QC, for the Sisters of Nazareth, said they also accept responsibility.
“They apologise unreservedly for any abuse suffered by children in their care,” he said.
Speaking for the Department of Justice, which inherited juvenile justice responsibilities from the Northern Ireland Office in 2010, Martin Wolfe said most children in the justice system were treated well but that the department was keen to learn lessons.
The inquiry must report to the Northern Ireland Executive by January 2016.