Commissioner's Statement on Apology

26 January 2022

On 11 March 2022, the Northern Ireland Executive and relevant institutions will formally apologise to all victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland.

This apology is a direct result of the Inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse that took place in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. It was a recommendation of that Inquiry and is a monumental milestone for survivors of abuse who have waited so long and campaigned so hard to get some form of recognition that what happened to them as children was wrong.

As the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse, I have publicly called for and welcomed the fact this apology will take place. I have also expressed my disappointment that survivors have waited far too long for it to happen. All survivors deserve to receive this apology and it deeply saddens me that many survivors have passed away before they had their abuse acknowledged, an acceptance of responsibility and an undertaking that it will never happen again.

My role, and that of my office is to support and advocate for survivors and oversee the co-ordination and provision of services.

Discourse in recent days has further upset victims and survivors by claiming that abuse has mainly stemmed from certain religious institutions. This ignores the fact that children were abused in both Catholic and Protestant run institutions, secular institutions run by charitable groups and state-run institutions and juvenile justice settings. The Inquiry described failings on a systemic level. Children right across Northern Ireland were abused in these institutions. Every single victim and survivor is entitled to a fulsome apology for the litany of abuse that was inflicted upon them.

I stand with all victims and survivors of institutional childhood abuse. My office exists to represent and promote the interests of victims and survivors, from every background.

It is worth remembering the words of the Inquiry when it recommended an apology to victims and survivors.

“We recommend the Northern Ireland Executive and those who were responsible for each of the institutions investigated by the Inquiry where we found systemic failings should make a public apology. The apology should be a wholehearted and unconditional recognition that they failed to protect children from abuse that could and should have been prevented or detected.” All victims and survivors of this abuse are long overdue recognition for the suffering they have endured.

In the next few weeks as we approach an apology, I also recognise that it will be an emotional and potentially difficult time for many victims and survivors. For anyone who would like to avail of emotional support or to access services as a result of these issues, the Victims and Survivors Service can be contacted by phoning 028 9031 1678 or emailing hiaenquiries@vssni.org.

The Commissioner’s Office may be contacted by phoning 028 9054 4985 and the email address is info@cosica-ni.org.