Hundreds of victims of historic child abuse in Derry and across Northern Ireland should receive a government-funded compensation payout and an official apology, a major inquiry has found.
The Stormont Executive should offer a tax-free lump sum payout to those abused in state, church and charity-run homes in the region between 1922 and 1995, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry found.
The HIA studied allegations of abuse in 22 homes and other residential institutions between 1922 to 1995 including Nazareth House and Termonbacca in Derry and Kincora in Belfast.
Inquiry chair Sir Anthony Hart said the executive and the organisations that ran homes where abuse occurred should offer a “wholehearted and unconditional” apology.
Sir Anthony outlined a series of recommendations after he revealed shocking levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse in a number of children’s homes.
The fate of Sir Anthony’s recommendation is mired in a degree of uncertainty given the recent Stormont crisis has resulted in the collapse of the current powersharing executive.
The retired judge said the redress scheme needed to be set up as a “matter of urgency”.
He also recommended that the Northern Ireland Executive should create a body called the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Redress Board.
The board would receive and process claims and payments, said the chairman.
The inquiry also recommended that a “suitable physical memorial” should be erected in Parliament Buildings in Belfast or in the grounds of Stormont estate.
It also called for the creation of a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse to offer victims support and assistance.
It recommended the provision of extra state funding to provide specialist care for victims.
Responding to the report’s findings Health Minister Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said: “At this stage, I want to acknowledge the pain, hurt and suffering of children at the hands of those who were entrusted with their care in those institutions which were examined by the Inquiry. It is evident that many of them are still living with the legacy of their horrendous childhood experiences.
“In statements made to the Inquiry, my Department conceded systemic failings on the part of predecessor bodies of the Department, specifically in connection with legislation and inspection for which those predecessor bodies had responsibility.
“When we take children into care, we need to do everything possible to keep them safe and to ensure that they receive the best quality care possible.”
While we cannot ever guarantee the safety and protection of every child all of the time, as Minister of Health, I draw comfort from the fact that we have more robust systems in place today designed, among other things, to minimise the risk of abuse to children in our care. The changes made to children’s residential care over the decades is acknowledged by the Inquiry.”