Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Report

Part of Private Members' Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:15 am on 23rd January 2017.

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Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin 10:15 am, 23rd January 2017

First, I would like to acknowledge that some of the victims and survivors are with us tonight. They have had a long wait because this debate was to happen a lot earlier in the day, but it is very short in comparison with the wait they had for the report and the acknowledgement.

I was at the launch of the report on Friday. The feeling, when I came out and spoke to people, was that the important thing for them was the acknowledgment. It was the recognition that, as has been said by other Members, they were the innocent victims. They had not done anything wrong. Finally, there was some acknowledgement that there were people who did do wrong, and did it to them. It was done by the very people who were supposed to care for them and protect them as a parent would. I do not think that very many parents would do to children what was done to these children in these institutions. I certainly hope not.

Speaking as someone who has a close personal connection to the issue, I have some understanding of what it means to the victims and survivors. My husband's mummy, Patsy, who I was extremely close to, suffered at the hands of nuns in one of these institutions — Nazareth House in Belfast — from the ages of four to eight. I will not go into the details of the story because it is her story, not mine, and she is no longer with us, but I am well aware of how she and her three sisters suffered. In fact, one of them died there and did not make it out. I feel that there needs to be some acknowledgment also of those who never made it out of these institutions and died within them. There probably is a failing in not recognising them. I wish to acknowledge them today, because some of their brothers, sisters and family members will still be with us. I spoke to Gerard and his sisters before I mentioned this tonight, because, as I said, it was her story and her children. They understand the impact it had on her throughout her life. It is very personal to a family, and I would not have spoken about her tonight without her children's permission. Whilst they were very emotional, they said, "Our mummy did nothing wrong. She has nothing to be ashamed of". This needs to be exposed and talked about. Thank goodness for Anthony Hart's report. All the things that happened to these children are being exposed and talked about.

The system failed the children — and their families, because these children grew up and had families. The impact was not just on the individual; it was on their families. It is generational; it did not end with that one person who suffered the abuse. I am glad to see these victims and survivors being acknowledged. As you would expect, the abuse suffered by the victims and survivors left its mark on their lives; it impacted on their lives and on those of their families. I welcome that the report acknowledges that and that there are recommendations in it to address that. I also welcome the recommendation that there be financial redress for victims and survivors. It needs to be made clear that this is not about compensation, it is about allowing those people to get access to services that they may not otherwise be able to get access to. It is an acknowledgement that a lot of them did not get the education that they should have and that they suffered hardship in adulthood because of things that happened to them as children.

The motion outlines the fact that the current political situation may delay the implementation of the recommendations. Whilst it cannot be denied that there is a knock-on effect of there being no Executive Office, which is extremely regrettable, no one tried harder to ensure that the political institutions remained in place and delivered for the people than Sinn Féin. We will work day and night. I hope that Edwin means what he said in the Chamber tonight. I hope that we can all get round a table. If there is a change of attitude and a real willingness to work towards equality and serve all the people, we will be able to move this thing forward. However, we all have to work together. There has to be a change of attitude. I take what you said tonight in the Chamber at face value and hope that you will work honestly with us to move this forward.