Northern Ireland

Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry: Reaction

The Historical Institutional Inquiry report Image copyright PAcemaker

A report detailing widespread abuse of children in residential homes in Northern Ireland has led to apologies from several institutions involved.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) examined complaints about 22 homes run by the state, churches and charities between 1922 to 1995.

It found some children were physically and sexually abused by priests and lay people entrusted to look after them.

Church leaders, politicians and victims have been reacting to the findings.

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Image caption The HIA Inquiry was chaired by Sir Anthony Hart (centre)

Irish Norbertines

"The Irish Norbertines recognise the tragic harm and hurt caused to innocent children by Brendan Smyth, a deceased member of our community.

"We again unreservedly apologise most sincerely for the hurt and harm caused to so many young people, while also accepting that our management of the man concerned (Smyth) and the accusations presented to us was grossly inadequate."

De La Salle Brothers

"We accept and deeply regret that boys in our care were abused. We offer our sincere and unreserved apology to all those whom we failed to protect.

"That some Brothers abused boys in their care was in total contradiction of their vocations as De la Salle Brothers and of their mission as established by our founder - namely to look after the welfare and educational needs of deprived, vulnerable and abandoned children."

Sisters of Nazareth

"We again apologise to anyone who has suffered abuse whether psychological, physical, sexual or neglect on any occasion when the sisters' standard of care fell below what was expected of them.

"It was always the desire of the order to provide a safe place for children and when we failed on any occasion, we want to express our deepest regret.

"This has been a traumatic time for those survivors and victims who have come forward however; we sincerely hope it has also been an opportunity to find some relief."

The Diocese of Down and Connor

"The Diocese of Down and Connor acknowledges, with a profound sense of shame, the report prepared by the HIA Inquiry and commends the professionalism of Sir Anthony Hart and all those who assisted him in conducting the investigations and preparing this report.

"The Diocese of Down and Connor apologises wholeheartedly, unconditionally and unreservedly to all those who have suffered abuse and carried the legacy of such appalling experiences from childhood as a result of any failing on the part of a representative of this diocese."

The Sisters of St. Louis

"We are saddened that any child suffered while under our care at the former St. Joseph's Training School, Middletown and we offer a heartfelt apology.

"We appreciate how difficult it must have been for the eight former residents to come forward to tell their stories and hope that the conclusions of the Inquiry will bring healing and hope to their lives."

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd

"We apologise unreservedly to those former residents whose care fell short of what they needed and deserved.

"The Inquiry also acknowledges the efforts made by our Sisters and we also want to recognise the work of our sisters today, many who gave their entire lives to childcare."

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Head of the Catholic Church in Ireland

"I welcome the publication of this Report and I accept its findings. I apologise unreservedly to all those who suffered from their experience in Church-run institutions, and to their loved ones.

"They have given details for all to see of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Their story is one of anxiety, isolation and pain.

Image caption The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, said he is ashamed and truly sorry that abuse occurred in Catholic-run institutions

"I know well that my words are inadequate in attempting to address the enormity of the harshness and brutality which many innocent children experienced.

"There is never an excuse for the abuse and ill treatment of children or any vulnerable person, in any setting.

"When the perpetrator is a priest or religious, it is also an appalling betrayal of a sacred trust.

"I am ashamed and I am truly sorry that such abuse occurred, and that in many cases children and young people felt deprived of love and were left with a deep and lasting suffering."

Bishop of Kilmore, Leo O'Reilly

"From the outset I wish to apologise to everyone who suffered abuse perpetrated by a priest or religious. To abuse a child is a most abhorrent act, is evil and to be condemned unreservedly.

"From what I have seen of the report, the evidence contained in it is, at times, heart-breaking to read.

"It is clear that many adults who, in the place of parents, were meant to provide love and care to children, failed in a catastrophic manner to protect and nurture their precious charges."

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)

Ass Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, Head of the PSNI's Department of Legacy and Justice, said: "I apologise unreservedly for the police failings that have been identified within this report.

Image caption PSNI ACC Mark Hamilton apologised for past police failings in investigating child abuse in institutions in Northern Ireland

"I acknowledge that there were a number of occasions when a thorough police investigation could, and should, have been brought about which may have prevented more children from becoming victims."

Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board

"On behalf of the HSC, we offer a sincere apology for anything that our staff either did or failed to do, which led to such abuse occurring.

"We want to reassure the applicants to the inquiry, others who suffered such abuse, and the general public, that the safeguarding position for children today is very different than it was historically.

"There is now a much greater awareness of all forms of abuse, enhanced staff training, better complaints procedures for children to report any potential abuse, and greater inspection. However, sadly, no system in the world is able to eradicate abuse from occurring completely.

"We wish to offer all assistance possible for survivors of abuse in terms of any counselling and mental health services to support them through any trauma they are experiencing."

Ulster Unionist Party

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt MLA said: "The findings of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry cast a dark shadow over 73 shameful years of Northern Ireland's past.

"The most vulnerable in our society, children, were let down as protection of the institutions trusted to care for them took precedence.

"We support the recommendations in full, it is the least survivors deserve after all these years."

"The report and its recommendations will be discussed in the Assembly on Monday as Opposition parties have put it on the agenda.

"We won't let this fade into the background because of the current Executive's toxic politics."


SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA said, ""The priority for everyone must now be the quick implementation of Judge Hart's recommendations to ensure that the needs of victims and survivors are finally met.

"This must include the urgent provision of financial compensation.

"Redress for the victims and survivors is long overdue.

"The Non-Executive parties will jointly bring a motion to the Assembly next week to ensure that this important issue is not buried or delayed by the rapidly changing political situation."

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon said: "We now need to see the full implementation of all the recommendations of the panel as soon as possible in order to address the needs of victims and survivors.

"The PSNI now have a responsibility to thoroughly investigate all allegations so that justice can be done.

"The state and these institutions failed in their duty to protect vulnerable children in their care. This is a failure of enormous proportions and the victims and survivors deserve a full apology."

Justice Minister, Clare Sugden

Claire Sugden said: "Those who were placed in these institutions trusted they would be cared for with dignity and respect, treated compassionately and protected from abuse. For many that trust was misplaced.

"Although this abuse took place a long time ago, the Department of Justice operates zero tolerance around child abuse and continually reviews its policies in respect of child protection.

"The findings of the HIA inquiry report are being carefully examined and new lessons emerging from the work of the Inquiry will be acted upon."

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People

Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, said: "It is important that the survivors receive justice and full recognition of the abuse they suffered.

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Image caption The NI Commissioner for Children and Young People. Koulla Yiasouma, is calling for the HIA Inquiry's findings to be acted upon

"I echo calls made by others that regardless of political disagreements, these findings must be acted upon by the current administration in the short time they have left, by the PSNI and as a matter of urgency, by the next Executive when it is in place."


The head of NSPCC Northern Ireland Neil Anderson said: "This inquiry has shed light on horrendous and widespread abuse carried out against children in Northern Ireland in the past.

"Institutions must now be held to account for the prolonged, systematic failings against the children in their care. It is right that the survivors receive the justice they deserve and we support the recommendation for redress."

Amnesty International

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director, said: "The inquiry has laid bare the catastrophic failure by the state, and by religious bodies and others who ran children's homes over a period of more than 70 years.

"We note the inquiry report recommendations with respect to apologies and redress. Victims deserve nothing less than full and wholehearted apologies from government, the Church authorities and others who were responsible for running homes where children suffered abuse.

"The Northern Ireland Executive must speedily put in place mechanisms to make reparation - including financial compensation - to all victims and in line with the proposals previously set out by abuse survivors."

The Health and Social Care Board

A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) said: "We are very aware from our knowledge and experience as Health and Social Care professionals, and reinforced by attending the hearings throughout the duration of the Inquiry, of the devastating impact that all forms of child abuse can have on children and how this can persist into adulthood.

"We are saddened to know that such abuse happened both to children in our care, as well as to those not known to us and privately placed in Voluntary Children's Homes.

"Therefore on behalf of the HSC we would offer a sincere apology for anything that our staff either did or failed to do, which led to such abuse occurring."

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