One of the victims of institutional abuse said yesterday: “And now Sir Anthony Hart has made it a special day for us where he has believed us and vindicated us.”
It was a poignant comment at the conclusion of what seems to have been a rigorous and successful inquiry into a bleak chapter in Northern Ireland history.
The Historical Institutional Abuse probe examined 22 institutions and home over many decades, from the founding of Northern Ireland in the 1920s to the 1990s. It was a mammoth and harrowing undertaking that lasted several years.
But unlike an unwieldy support into abuse that has been launched in England, and has run into a succession of problems, Sir Anthony has reported in a timely fashion.
He recommended compensation payments of up to £100,000 to the victims, funded by the state but also by the institutions themselves where the harm occurred. The payments are expected to begin later this year – an important recommendation, given that many of the victims are elderly.
Abuse of children, it is now clear, is something that happened across institutions and borders. Tragically, many of the children were ignored because there was no culture of listening to complaints from young people who were so vulnerable and powerless and dependent on the goodwill of others.
Sir Anthony also recommends an official apology from the government. This needs to be forthcoming.
Already some of the implicated organisations such as the Catholic Church and the religious orders have said sorry.
The inquiry should help to bring about some closure. Such a thorough investigation will also make it harder for children to be abused in such circumstances the future.
Sir Anthony said that there was no evidence of a wider paedophile ring at Kincora in east Belfast, and expressed the hope that this myth would be put to bed. That too is a key finding. In Great Britain similar myths were investigated in Operation Midland. Such claims, when proven to be false, must be very publicly dismissed.