|Sir Anthony Hart|
The enquiry is an opportunity for the victims of abuse ate Northern Irish Care Homes to be heard. It is fundamentally important that the many years of silence is broken and that the victims are listened to.
In his opening remarks, the chairman of the inquiry, Sir Anthony Hart, said it would try to establish if abuse in children's homes was systemic.
He said he hoped those who had given evidence to the inquiry "will have the satisfaction of knowing that their experiences are being listened to and investigated".
Sir Anthony said many of the witnesses had told the inquiry that when they made complaints in the past they had been ignored.
He said where the inquiry believes criminal offences have taken place it will pass the evidence onto the police.
At the office, QualitySolicitors Abney Garsden have dealt with several complaints of abuse at Northern Irish Care Homes, which have proceeded independently of the enquiry through the civil courts.
The enquiry has clearly been announced after vociferous efforts have been rightfully made by victims of abuse, but more importantly as a direct reaction to the enquiries in Southern Ireland, where there were two types of enquiry explained in more detail on our Irish Survivor's site
- The Irish Commission - this sat in Dublin and heard evidence from victim - much like the Northern Irish enquiry just announced. It had no power to prosecute or punish anyone, but could refer criminal allegations to the police.
- The Irish Redress Board ("RIRB") now closed - was opened in 2002 and closed in 2005. It was set up to pay compensation and legal costs to the victims of abuse by institutions connected with the Irish State - the entire care and school system was set up in partnership with the Church and various voluntary bodies. This followed an apology by the Taoiseach of Ireland for the abuse committed by the state upon its children whilst in its care.The RIRB used a point scoring system in order to determine the amount of compensation offered.
Institutions under investigation
Local authority homes:
- Lissue Children's Unit, Lisburn
- Kincora Boys' Home, Belfast
- Bawnmore Children's Home, Newtownabbey
Juvenile justice institutions:
- St Patrick's Training School, Belfast
- Lisnevin Training School, County Down
- Rathgael Training School, Bangor
Secular voluntary homes:
- Barnardo's Sharonmore Project, Newtownabbey
- Barnardo's Macedon, Newtownabbey
Catholic Church-run homes:
- St Joseph's Home, Termonbacca, Londonderry
- Nazareth House Children's Home, Derry
- Nazareth House Children's Home, Belfast
- Nazareth Lodge Children's Home, Belfast
- De La Salle Boys' Home, Kircubbin, County Down
Whilst the Commission will hear and investigate valuable evidence, it remains to be seen what further powers the body will have.
It was said that the Redress Board was set up in the Southern Ireland as a more efficient alternative to the Courts. If the victims were expected to take all their cases through the Eire Courts system, it would have taken many years to process their claims, as the Court would become clogged up with all the allegations.
The institutions were approached, and agreed to part with considerable sums of money by way of a contribution to the cost of setting up and running the Irish Redress Board.
It is regrettable than no alternative to the court system appears, to date, to have been set up in Northern Ireland, laudable though the Commission obviously is.