Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Report

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance 10:45 pm, 23rd January 2017

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate tonight. I start by commending my Alliance colleague and Member for South Belfast Paula Bradshaw MLA for her contribution, which goes to the core of the message that needs to be sent out tonight. Given the gravity of the HIA inquiry report, it is now time for action. That, for me, is the key message being sent out this evening.

There is no First Minister or deputy First Minister. However, the victims, survivors and their supporters have been signposting the likely recommendations of this report for months, if not years. We have a Health Minister and a Justice Minister, and if the Executive Office were able to issue a statement about this report on Friday, I genuinely like to think that one of those Ministers could have been here this evening to respond to this extremely important debate and to provide a progress update on the recommendations to the victims and survivors in our community and, indeed, to those who are here tonight.

Deputy Speaker, this has been one of the most challenging issues on which I have worked as an MLA. It has been a privilege to meet the victims and survivors and, indeed, the many people who have supported them along the way. Carmel Hanna has been mentioned, but I also think of Conall McDevitt, Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International and Professor Patricia Lundy of the Ulster University who were part of the panel of experts that has supported the victims and survivors. It is the courage, the dignity and the perseverance of victims and survivors that drove the campaign and progress towards the truth and redress that they deserve. It is for those victims and survivors that I commend the work of the HIA inquiry led by Judge Hart and welcome the comprehensive recommendations that it has made.

It took a two-and-a-half-hour statement and a 2,300-page report — 10 volumes in total — to set out unequivocally how the action — and inaction — of the state and Church organisations charged with protecting children and young people exposed them to the most heinous systematic institutional emotional physical and sexual abuse. I pay tribute to the victims and survivors of that abuse who have had to fight with courage and dignity to achieve the long overdue acknowledgement and truth that they deserve.

Mr Deputy Speaker, sitting at the launch of the report on Friday, one of those victims and survivors turned to me, after every bit of detail that had been put forward, and asked me simply, "Do you think that means that they believed us?". That was the most important issue to him, and I am glad that he has been believed in complete detail. It is crucial that the details of those recommendations, the public apologies, the memorial, the services to meet the individual needs of victims and survivors, and the redress and compensation payment are actioned as a matter of urgency. We need to hear an update as to how that will be achieved.

If it is the truth that these recommendations cannot be progressed in the absence of the Executive, victims and survivors deserve to hear that truth. There is an urgent obligation to implement the report; that alone should serve as a reason for a functioning power-sharing Executive to be put back in place.

As an MLA for East Belfast, I mention the reference to Kincora boys' home in the report. The report found that Kincora residents were exposed to numerous acts of sexual abuse of the gravest kind. Judge Hart gave reassurance that he had access to all the information that he required, but I remain concerned that key individuals appear not to have felt able to give oral evidence to the inquiry.

That remains a concern. I also acknowledge the ongoing need for investigation into clerical abuse of victims outside of institutions and mother-and-baby-home abuse as well.