Northern Ireland

Allister: Stormont inquiry must include clerical abuse

Image caption The Stormont inquiry is to examine historical child abuse cases dating back to 1922 but not cases of clerical abuse

Traditional Unionist leader Jim Allister wants to see the Stormont Executive's inquiry into the historic abuse of children in care homes and other institutions extended to include abuse by members of the clergy.

In September the retired judge Sir Anthony Hart said he was opposed to any widening of his remit.

Mr Allister has suggested amendments to the bill setting up the inquiry.

He said this would extend its scope to include clerical abuse.

Mr Allister has tabled a series of amendments and the Speaker William Hay must decide whether to allow them to go forward for debate next Tuesday when the assembly reaches the consideration stage of the bill.

"Having been lobbied by victims of clerical abuse, including by families of Brendan Smyth's victims, I am convinced by their arguments that clerical abuse must be included within the promised inquiry," he said.

"As things stand an unfair distinction is being made by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister's (OFMDFM) bill between victims of abuse within institutions and victims of clerical abuse, with the former getting an inquiry and the latter not.

"This is unjust. The inquiry should cover all such abuse. Hence my amendments to try and bring this about. I trust the speaker will now permit debate on this vital issue.


"I am also seeking to specify the terms of reference for the inquiry in the bill, rather than the rather bizarre situation of them being found only in an OFMDFM statement."

Mr Allister is waiting to see if the speaker will allow the amendments he has tabled to go forward for debate when the assembly reaches the consideration stage of the bill next Tuesday.

The Executive's inquiry was announced in December 2010.

It followed the damning Ryan Report in the Irish Republic which uncovered decades of endemic abuse in some religious institutions.

The inquiry, headed by the former High Court Judge Sir Anthony Hart, will examine claims of abuse at children's homes, care institutions and borstals in Northern Ireland.

Initially it was due to only examine cases between 1945 and 1995.

It was announced last month that it would extend its time frame to investigate abuse claims from as far back as 1922.

The extension of the terms of reference means the inquiry can now decide if there were systemic failings by the state, or institutions, in their duties towards children under 18; for whom they provided residential care between 1922 and 1995.

The inquiry itself will not get its full powers until the assembly passes the necessary legislation. It is currently at the committee stage.

The legislation should be in place after Christmas and the inquiry is expected to report three years after starting.

An acknowledgment forum was established at the start of October and a registration process for victims started.

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