Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry: Focus switches to child migration programme

Sir Anthony Hart is chairman of the historic abuse inquiry.
Sir Anthony Hart is chairman of the historic abuse inquiry.

The Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry will focus on a migration scheme which involved the transport of children to Australia when it recommences its public hearings at the beginning of September.

The Inquiry commenced its public hearings in January, 2014 and its first batch of evidence focused on two former children’s institutions in Derry which were run by the Sisters of Nazareth. Some of the children under the care of these institutions in the city were amongst those transported to Australia.

Public hearings for the Inquiry’s second module of evidence will commence at 11am on Monday, September 1 at Banbridge Courthouse, Banbridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland.

A team from the Inquiry and its confidential Acknowledgement Forum has already made two trips to Australia, during which a total of 66 applicants, now residing in Australia, were interviewed. All these individuals had applied to participate in the statutory Inquiry and/or Forum processes.

The witnesses being asked to provide evidence to the oral hearings have been chosen because they can describe the events which occurred to them before they left Northern Ireland when they were sent as child migrants to Australia. The majority of these witnesses will provide their oral evidence via video-link. The module is scheduled to last three weeks.

Documentation examined by the Inquiry has revealed that, between 1946 and 1956, children were sent from various institutions in Northern Ireland to institutions in Australia (primarily Western Australia), as part of a UK government policy of child migration.

The Inquiry hopes to commence hearings for Module 3 at the end of September. That module will examine the former De La Salle Boys’ Home, Rubane House, in Kircubbin, Co. Down.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was formally established in January 2013 by the Northern Ireland Executive. It has a remit to investigate child abuse which occurred in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period up to 1995.