Getting the truth ‘more important’ to victims

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A Derry victim of institutional abuse has said getting to the truth is more important than holding a quick-fix inquiry.

Jon McCourt, of the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse group, made the comment after First Minister Peter Robinson confirmed that an inquiry into institutional child abuse in the North could take up to two years to establish.

The delay has come about because current legislation for a statutory investigation limits the time period to between 1973 and 1989.

Mr Robinson said any attempt to widen the timeframe with new legislation could take between 18 months and two years. He said there was a possibility of combining some statutory and non-statutory elements in an inquiry.

“If we take the statutory route, the only statutory provision available for us at the present time would limit the period of an inquiry to between 1973 and 1989 and I do not think that is going to assist victims,” he added.

Mr McCourt said he felt that getting the inquiry right was “more important than getting it now”.

“We have been involved in a range of discussions and spoken with scores of people who spent quite a lot of time in institutions and with all of them the one thing they are looking for is justice, the other is acknowledgement and the other is their truth being heard,” he said.

“But that is not going to happen quickly and it is not going to happen under a non-statutory inquiry.

“A statutory inquiry will bring with it the powers to compel the evidence, to compel records - anything out there that relates to the abuse and the system of abuse that went on within institutions.

“We need to be able to bring people forward that have the evidence and documentation and that won’t happen if it is a non-statutory inquiry,” said the former ‘homeboy’ from Sisters of Nazareth children’s home at Termonbacca.

In 2009, Stormont assembly members backed the holding of an inquiry into the extent of child abuse in Catholic church and state-run institutions in the North. It followed the damning Ryan Report in the Republic of Ireland which uncovered decades of endemic abuse in some religious institutions.

The Stormont executive announced in December it would hold the inquiry. A taskforce is currently considering the potential remit of the inquiry.