Preservation of Documents (Historical Institutions) Bill: Final Stage

Part of Private Members' Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:45 pm on 24 March 2022.

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Photo of Linda Dillon Linda Dillon Sinn Féin 4:45, 24 March 2022

Usually, I am delighted to join meetings via Zoom, but, on this occasion, I would much prefer to be in the Chamber, because this is such an important issue. I am pleased, proud and privileged to speak on the final item of business on the final day of the Assembly mandate, particularly given the item that it is: the preservation of documentation for those who went through the institutions.

Again, I thank Alan Chambers, who brought the private Member's Bill forward, and all those who have worked so hard on it, including everyone in the Department who worked with the Minister — as has been said — and, as has been highlighted, your office, Mr Speaker, and the Business Committee. The work that was done there to ensure that the Bill was brought to the House today has been phenomenal. I assure you that, from my point of view and perspective, we offer great thanks for that, because we know what it means to the victims and survivors.

I was messaged about an hour ago by some of the victims and survivors who asked what was happening with the Bill and how it was going. I told them that we were about to agree the Final Stage, that I had no reason to believe that it would not go through and that that would mean that the Bill would become legislation. They were delighted. For those people, we can feel proud that, as an Assembly, all Members across the House worked together to ensure that we got the best Bill possible. When we talk about legislation, we say that there is no such thing as perfect legislation and that it can always be better, but we certainly did our best to make this legislation the best that it could be. We have done good work to deliver that.

As other Members outlined, our thoughts are with all the women and girls, and their children who are now adults, who went through the institutions. Each and every one of them deserves to know everything about their life: about where they came from, who they are, what happened to them and why it happened. Therefore, all the information that is included and all the documents that will be preserved as a result of the Bill are vital elements to each and every one of those individuals.

As the Chair of the Committee for the Executive Office said, one of the difficult elements of this is those who died. That will be a very difficult thing for us to deal with going forward in the inquiry. We will hear details that nobody will want to have to deal with, but I am glad that we are dealing with it. I am glad that we are doing something, today, that may possibly restore some of the faith that, I am sure, has been lost many, many times by those who went through those institutions in the state. I hope that they now have faith that we will do the right thing going forward, that the inquiry will deliver for them and their families and that they will get the proper redress and recognition that they deserve for everything that they went through as children and everything that they continue to go through as adults. Today is about them. I think about all the victims and survivors to whom this piece of legislation means so much.

While it is only one small part of the jigsaw, it is an important part, and it shows, on our behalf, that we really want to do the right thing for every one of them.

I thank Alan Chambers for bringing the Bill to the House, and I thank all those who have supported it. I am delighted that this is the final thing that we will do in the Assembly mandate.

As the previous contributor said, a Cheann Comhairle, I wish you all the very best. Speaking not only as a party colleague but as somebody who has been in the Chamber over the past number of years, I think that you have done your job in a very fair manner, even if that meant telling me when I had said enough or had stepped out of line. That is what being a good Speaker is all about. We could not have asked for any better than you.