Commissioner calls for commitment to victims and survivors of historical institutional childhood abuse as public apology takes place

11 March 2022

The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse, Fiona Ryan acknowledged the pain and suffering of all historical institutional abuse victims and survivors in Stormont today at the public apology - a recommendation of the 2017 Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry chaired by Sir Anthony Hart.

In her speech, Commissioner Ryan paid tribute to all who had campaigned for an inquiry into historical institutional abuse. She called for commitment to victims and survivors and said that she hoped the words said today were underwritten by action. There are still Inquiry recommendations to be carried forward.

In her speech, the Commissioner reminded all present why the Apology was being made:

“Let us be clear why we are here today and what is being apologised for. We are talking about the systemic abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect of children for decades in residential institutions in Northern Ireland. For this abuse to succeed on this scale requires not only individual abusers and institutions to perpetrate the abuse but failed oversight and accountability on the part of the public authorities.”

“Survivors campaigned. They put their case to the media, talking to sympathetic politicians; and their actions pushed the door open to the public inquiry into historical institutional childhood abuse. Survivors walked into those rooms and began telling the truth of the abuse they suffered in these institutions; some for the first time to anyone, even to members of their own families...”

We need to acknowledge and recognise the journey of survivors here today; the survivors in communities here and abroad; the survivors who journey alone never telling anyone of their experiences: to you, the choice is always yours but if you choose to talk there are people there to listen.”

She also acknowledged the survivors for whom the public apology holds little value. The Inquiry noted a range of opinions among survivors in relation to a public apology, from people who very much wanted an apology to those who saw no point in having one. 

The Commissioner invited those present to observe one minute’s silence in memory of victims and survivors who had passed away before hearing the apology:

“Finally, we need to acknowledge those whose journey has ended; the survivors who have passed and who will not hear this apology. For whom this apology is too late. If there is a question as to the lifelong impact of child abuse, talk to the loved ones of some of the survivors who have died and they will tell you in their final days, it was their earliest years they remembered.”