Northern Ireland Assembly leaders in apology to victims of historical institutional abuse

Northern Ireland Executive ministers have offered an apology to the victims of historical institutional abuse in the Assembly chamber.

Survivors watched on as a minute's silence was held before the five ministers offered the apology.

The ministers, representing each of the main parties, made the apology in the absence of a first and deputy first minister.

Michelle McIlveen, Conor Murphy, Nichola Mallon, Robin Swann and Naomi Long addressed the Assembly. They stood in after Paul Givan resigned earlier this year which also removed Michelle O'Neill from the joint office.

Representatives from six religious organisations, which ran the institutions, also offered an apology.

They spoke on behalf of religious orders De La Salle, Sisters of Nazareth, Sisters of St Louis and the Good Shepherd Sisters - as well as Barnardo's and the Irish Church Missions.

DUP Education Minister Michelle McIlveen was the first to speak.

She said: "Whilst in the care of the state you were made vulnerable – we did not ensure all our residential homes were filled with love and safety. We did not ensure these homes were all free from hunger and cold; from mistreatment and abuse.

"It was the state’s responsibility to do that, and it failed you.

"We neglected you, rejected you, we made you feel unwanted. It was not your fault. The state let you down."

Chairman Sir Anthony Hart Credit: Paul Faith/PA

Historical institutional abuse apology


The public apology was recommended in the final report of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA), which was published more than five years ago.

Inquiry chair Sir Anthony Hart outlined a series of recommendations after he revealed shocking levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse in the period 1922 to 1995. The recommendations included that those abused in state, church and charity run homes should be offered compensation as well as an official apology from government and the organisations which ran the residential facilities where it happened. The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry ran for four years, examining allegations of abuse in 22 homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland. The institutions were run by the religious orders, as well as churches, the state and charities. Inquiry chair Sir Anthony Hart also found evidence of "systemic failings". He made a series of recommendations in 2017 including that a redress scheme be set up as a "matter of urgency". He said the minimum payout should be £7,500 with the maximum amount given to those who had experienced severe levels of abuse as well as being transported to Australia in a controversial migrant scheme. The compensation scheme opened in 2020. By the end of November 2021, more than £26million had been paid out to survivors.

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Fiona Ryan was appointed in 2020 as Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (Cosica) fulfilling another one of the recommendations.

The final recommendation, which remains outstanding, is the creation of a suitable physical memorial sited within Parliament Buildings or the Stormont estate.