Commissioner's Letter to the First Minister and deputy First Minister

03 February 2022

Dear First Minister and Deputy First Minister,

I am writing you in relation to the potential announcement that the First Minister is due to resign with immediate effect from his post this afternoon. I have to tell you this couldn’t come at a worse time for victims and survivors of institutional childhood abuse who have already suffered so much, five years after the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry report was published.

As Commissioner for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse, I am calling on the Executive to see and understand that the Apology to victims and survivors goes beyond politics and it is my view that the Executive has a duty to deliver the promised Apology to the victims and survivors of institutional childhood abuse. I am entreating the Executive to understand that many victims and survivors need this Apology for closure.  The idea that victims and survivors are once again being made to feel disregarded and discarded cannot be allowed to happen.

It was only two weeks ago today, on 20th January, on the 5th anniversary of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry report, that the Executive announced the 11th March as the date for the Apology to victims and survivors. The symbolism of that date deeply resonated with victims and survivors. Now 14 days on, that Apology hangs in the balance.

I have been listening and speaking with victims and survivors all morning since this news broke. Words like anger and sadness don’t come near to describing their feelings, rage, devastation and betrayal are far more accurate but underneath those is profound sadness. How much more are we going to ask victims and survivors to endure before they hear, ‘You were never to blame. We failed you. We are sorry.” How much longer must victims and survivors wait?

Getting to this point where an Apology is to be made, has already been a battle for victims and survivors and many have been lost on the way. If the promised public apology does not take place, it will absolutely cause further trauma to many victims and survivors. It will send the message that once again they are not seen and not heard and the pain and suffering they endured as abused children is once again being ignored.

I have been in contact with the Executive Office in calls throughout the morning seeking assurance or some direction to offer comfort to victims and survivors that they haven’t been forgotten.  I am awaiting a response. I am also mindful that the anxiously awaited Review of the Redress process is happening right now. For many victims and survivors they want to know how this news today impacts on the Review. How will any recommendations be taken forward or will the Review simply be left to lie on a shelf to gather dust.

I am due to say the above publicly this afternoon. I am beseeching you to examine every possible avenue to making this Apology happen for victims and survivors of institutional childhood abuse.

Kind regards,

Fiona