Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Report

Part of Private Members' Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:45 pm on 23rd January 2017.

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Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 10:45 pm, 23rd January 2017

On Friday, survivors of historical institutional abuse had their day that many had waited decades for. It was a day of public recognition of their suffering. What happened to them was wrong. It should never have taken place and should have been picked up much earlier through investigations by various statutory bodies. Sir Anthony Hart and his team lifted the cover off the 73 shameful years in our history in which some of the most vulnerable in our society — children — were exploited, degraded and abused by those who had been trusted to care for them. I will pick up on what my party leader said earlier. There are 41 references in the report to systemic failures that should not have happened. As the Member for South Belfast said, some were transported to the other side of the world alone, only to face further abuse.

Those who survived to see Friday saw not only verbal recognition but a list of concrete measures recommended by Sir Anthony Hart. They received recognition that the abuse they had suffered did not just affect their childhood; it scarred them and may have limited their opportunities throughout their lives. Had they been dealt a different set of circumstances, they could have walked another path of better educational, social and economic opportunities. I would highlight that the suffering affected children from throughout Northern Ireland, including my constituency. Adjacent to it is the Bawnmore children's home, Barnardo's Macedon and the Sharonmore project, each of which was investigated as part of the programme. Like other MLAs, I, too, have met a constituent who had been placed, in this occasion, in Lissue hospital. He attended the hearing to report the abuse that he had endured whilst under care.

The package of recommended financial compensation recognises the long-term effect on the potential of these people and the abuse that they suffered, and it attempts to put right some of what was wrong by providing some financial certainty. I also agree that significant compensation should be sought from those bodies in whose care these vulnerable young people had been placed. They, too, have a responsibility.

The judge also put in place a number of other measures that would create a legacy to prevent this from ever happening again. That is perhaps the best legacy that all of us should ensure happens.

There should be a permanent memorial in Stormont to ensure that those who suffered are always in our thoughts as legislators. There should be a commissioner to advocate on behalf of survivors to ensure that their needs are met.

In the cruellest and most callous of twists, survivors find themselves able to see the end point, but not able to grasp it. Why? Because of the toxic politics of the Executive. We enter an election period without the full publication of the report or even a 2017-18 budget in place to address the recommendations for compensation. I have heard on the radio and TV victims who should now have finally had some certainty expressing their frustration that they have anything but certainty. The recommendations that were made by the historical institutional abuse inquiry are now left in limbo and have been handed to the Executive Office at a time when we do not have a First Minister or deputy First Minister in place to take them forward. Indeed, there is no one sitting in the ministerial chair tonight to respond to the debate and say what will happen. What legacy will we as politicians and an Assembly leave? There will be an onus on those who come after the election to ensure that something is put in place to deliver on the needs of these vulnerable people.

I urge what remains of the Executive to do one thing in the coming days: to be honest. Survivors have walked a long road, where their hopes have repeatedly been raised and then dashed. The Executive ought to be honest with survivors and tell them what they can and cannot deliver. Finally, as an Assembly, it is important that we pause to recognise —