Long-awaited state apology for abuse due tomorrow at Stormont

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said “it is only right” that victims of historical institutional abuse will receive a formal apology in Stormont.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 2:01 am
The Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry report recommended the apology in 2017
The Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry report recommended the apology in 2017

The apology will be given by five Stormont ministers on behalf of the power-sharing Executive tomorrow.

Agreement had been reached for it to be delivered by the First and Deputy First Ministers Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill, but the DUP’s decision to withdraw Mr Givan from his position has removed both from their posts.

Instead, the apology will be delivered on behalf of the Northern Ireland government by the ministers of education, finance, infrastructure, health and justice – Michelle McIlveen, Conor Murphy, Nichola Mallon, Robin Swann and Naomi Long.

The apology was one of several recommendations made by the chair of a five-year inquiry into the abuse of children under the care of institutions run by the state, churches and other organisations.

The inquiry, led by the late Sir Anthony Hart, publshed its recommendations five years ago after finding the abuse was “widespread” in residential institutions across Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995.

Tomorrow’s apology will take place in the Assembly Chamber of Parliament Buildings, Stormont and will be followed by apologies from each of the institutions where systemic failings were found in the inquiry report.

Speaking the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Lewis said: “It is only right that victims and survivors are now receiving a formal apology for the abhorrent abuse they suffered whilst residing in institutions that were meant to care for them.

“This is another key recommendation of the Hart Report and it is to be welcomed.

“For too many years the voices of victims and their appeals for help went unheard. On March 11 they will receive a full and unconditional apology that is so deserved for them.”

Mr Lewis was speaking during a session of questions on Northern Ireland in the House of Commons.

The apology has been welcomed by groups representing victims and survivors of institutional abuse, including the lobby group SAVIA (Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse).

The organisation Survivors Together, however, has rejected what it described as the “downgraded” apology in light of the withdrawal of the first and deputy first ministers earlier this year.

The apology is due to be livestreamed from the Assembly Chamber at Stormont from 12.30pm tomorrow. It will be available via the Assembly website, Facebook and YouTube.

In a joint statement issued by the Executive Office, ministers Michelle McIlveen, Conor Murphy, Nichola Mallon, Robin Swann and Naomi Long said: “We have worked alongside victims and survivors to ensure that the maximum number who wish to hear the apology have been accommodated within the Assembly Chamber and Parliament Buildings.”