Abuse victims ‘in despair’ over delay

Patrick O'Rourke pictured back in Termonbacca almost 70 years after being brought there as a five-year-old boy.
Patrick O'Rourke pictured back in Termonbacca almost 70 years after being brought there as a five-year-old boy.

A 73-year-old man who suffered abuse as a child in Termonbacca has called for the recommendations of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry to be implemented as a matter of urgency.

Abuse survivor Patrick O’Rourke said the victims had waited decades for justice and many were now in the final stages of their lives.

Patrick O'Rourke pictured near Termonbacca after he returned to Derry.

Patrick O'Rourke pictured near Termonbacca after he returned to Derry.

Mr O’Rourke said the abuse many of those brought up in institutions suffered as children has impacted severely on their lives and the current delays were prolonging the hurt.

Donegal native Mr O’Rourke was just five years old when he was taken to St. Joseph’s Boys Home in Termonbacca and spent eight years there.

As a boy Patrick suffered repeated violent attacks as well as episodes of sexual abuse at the hands of a gang of older boys at Termonbacca, which was run by the Sisters of Nazareth.

The attacks and his experiences there have had life-long repercussions on his mental health. He was severely disturbed by the time he left the home and at 16 received electric shock treatment before leaving Ireland for many years.

Mr O’Rourke, who now lives in Dublin, said that the lives of many victims had been severely blighted and in some cases destroyed by the abuse, and that it was owed to the victims that the recommendations were implemented.

“I am nearly 74 now. I’m concerned not so much for myself but more for other people who are hanging in there.

“I am very aware from a psychological point of view of the impact this has on people. I have come through so many things, but I genuinely feel sorry for others. There must be people who are now in despair.

“They should bring an end to this now. It should be made a priority. We are all only here for a while and for many this is their last years.”

Mr O’Rourke pointed out that the chairman of the Inquiry and even some within the Church hierarchy have urged politicians to ensure the recommendations are implemented as a matter of urgency.

“I want to appeal to them to look at it again for those people. I have been lucky, I was able to handle things better. I am off drink 30 years. I got into many things, sports, I worked helping the homeless.

“A lot weren’t so lucky, they couldn’t do it because they were so beat up and suffering, they had nobody to call on. I know that for a fact. There were and are people in poor circumstances, ill health, living in not great conditions.”

Speaking about the long wait for justice for victims, he said: “We move forward and then it is like someone putting a brick wall up in front of you.”

The Inquiry was brought into being almost five years ago and delivered its findings to the then First Minister and deputy First Ministers, Arlene Foster and the late Martin McGuinness, on January 6, 2017, before being published later the same month.

Under the law, the First Minster and deputy First Minister must lay the Inquiry Report before the Assembly, but this has not been done because of the collapse of the devolved institutions shortly after its publication.

The chairman of the HIA Inquiry, Sir Anthony Hart back in June wrote to the leaders of the political parties, and later to Secretary of State James Brokenshire. In his correspondence to the politicians he said: “The implementation of our recommendations is urgent because so many of those who waited many years for their voices to be heard, and who anxiously await the implementation of our recommendations, are now advancing in years and/or in poor health.”

A UK Government spokesperson said yesterday: “The Secretary of State appreciated the opportunity to meet victims and survivors of historical institutional child abuse on July 20 and hear their stories and views first hand.

“He fully recognises the frustration felt by the victims and survivors at the lack of progress in taking forward Sir Anthony Hart’s recommendations due to the current lack of the devolved administration.

“The Secretary of State continues to believe that the best outcome for victims and survivors of child abuse is a fully functioning Executive where strategic decisions can be made in responding to Sir Anthony’s report including his recommendations on redress recognising that it was the Executive which commissioned this report. The restoration of the devolved institutions remains the Secretary of State’s key priority at this time.”

The Inquiry recommended that the NI Executive and those responsible for each of the institutions investigated by the Inquiry where they found systemic failings should make “a wholehearted” apology with an unconditional recognition “that they failed to protect children from abuse”.

The Inquiry also recommended that a suitable physical memorial to the victims be erected, and that a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse be appointed as an advocate, assisted by an Advisory Panel “consisting of individuals who as children were resident in residential homes in Northern Ireland”.

In terms of financial redress, the Inquiry called on the Executive to set up a publicly funded scheme, with lump sum payments to be issued to those who suffered institutional abuse as children. A new Historic Institutional Abuse Redress Board would be set up to receive and process applications for, and make payments of, compensation.

Among the institutions investigated in Derry were St Joseph’s Home at Termonbacca, Nazareth House Children’s Home.

The Inquiry’s report catalogued disturbing sexual, physical and emotional abuse perpetrated against young boys and girls in Derry’s children’s homes over several decades.

Despite denials by some surviving Sisters of Nazareth, the Inquiry found that due to inadequate numbers and lack of State support, the Sisters in Derry allowed older children to take over the supervision of younger children when they were otherwise engaged, creating a situation which had disastrous and tragic consequences. The Inquiry found that the Congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth did not take adequate steps to ensure they had enough funding and sufficient and trained Sisters and lay staff for their Derry homes.

The Ministry of Home Affairs and Department of Health & Social Services were also criticised for failed implement rigorous inspection regimes; adequate monitor care provision or help ensure sufficient and suitable staff and premises.

The 2,300 page Historical Abuse report was the culmination of four years’ work by the Inquiry, which formally opened on January 13, 2014 and concluded on Friday July 8, 2016. During the course of the public evidence sessions the Inquiry heard from 527 witnesses. The Inquiry had a remit to investigate physical, emotional and sexual childhood abuse, and childhood neglect in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period up to 1995.