Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Report

Part of Private Members' Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:30 pm on 23rd January 2017.

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Photo of Christopher Stalford Christopher Stalford DUP 10:30 pm, 23rd January 2017

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I absolutely agree with that.

At the launch of the report, I sat next to a man who said to me, "They tortured me and my brother. They beat us every day, and they shoved bars of soap into our mouth". That man was probably 10 or 15 years older than me. When he was describing what had happened to him as a child, you could see that he was regressing in his mind to that time and to what had been done to him so many years ago. He was still living with it all the years after he had left the Church-run institution that he had been sent to. At every level of the state, this was a litany of failure to ensure the good care of vulnerable children and young people. Almost everything that could have been done incorrectly was done incorrectly.

The report presented by Sir Anthony Hart must be actioned. I listened to some contributions, and I have to say that I did not get involved in politics to bring shame upon myself or to let anybody down. I want to see the report actioned. I think that it was right that we waited for its publication. None of us could have foreseen circumstances in which there would not have been an Executive to implement it, but I want to assure the Member from my constituency that I want to see this report implemented every bit as much as she does, if not more so.

I am involved in politics because I want to help people. In my time on the Executive Office Committee, which is chaired by the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, there was not one word of disagreement around these issues. We all recognise the seriousness of the situation and the gravity of the suffering that was inflicted on people who should have been protected and looked after. No one has argued or had a disagreement about the nature of the memorial. I have not heard a single person put forward differing ideas. I want us, either in the grounds of this Building or in this Building, to have a memorial that reflects that this shame is an echo back to an era when children were cared for less, when the state took the children of the vulnerable and the poor and pushed them onto the sidelines.

For whatever reason, those who were entrusted with overseeing these institutions decided that it was not worth their time to do so. Here we are, a few generations later, tasked with — I cannot say repairing the mess or cleaning up the mess because that is not right — helping those who have suffered. I want devolution to be used to help those who have suffered. I believe that it is right that there should be an apology for the role that the state played, and I believe that a memorial is a good idea and that financial redress should also be called for. Whilst the state had and should have a role in putting together a financial package, let there be no doubt that the Churches are some of the wealthiest organisations in this land, with the vast reserves of land and property that they sit on. Any Church that had a role in the systematic abuse of children should be made —