Northern Ireland news

Stormont `fact-finding' investigation into abuse survivors data breach

Interim victims' advocate Brendan McAllister speaking to the Northern Ireland Assembly in February. Picture by NI Assembly/PA Wire

STORMONT is setting up a `fact-finding' investigation into a data breach involving the identities of hundreds of historical abuse survivors.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the Executive "deeply regretted" that a letter was sent on behalf of Interim Victims' Advocate Brendan McAllister without the names of 250 recipients being anonymised.

Some of the individuals had chosen to remain anonymous during the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry which investigated allegations of child abuse at 22 residential institutions run by religious, charitable and state organisations over 73 years.

Mr McAllister has said he will not resign, but takes full responsibility for the error and has referred the matter to the information commissioner.

TUV leader Jim Allister tabled an urgent question in the assembly, describing the interim commissioner's position as "untenable".

Ms Foster said information commissioner investigations take time, and so the Department of Finance will carry out a "shorter, fact-finding piece of work".

"We are taking this very seriously and we want to provide victims and survivors with answers as to how it happened," she said.

She also told the assembly the selection panel to find a permanent commissioner has been appointed and the position will be advertised next week, with a view to them being in post by August.

Ms Foster said "due process" must be followed and Mr McAllister had already said he would consider his position if he was found to have been involved in any wrongdoing.

She said that while some victims and survivors did not have confidence in Mr McAllister others have urged him to stay in the role.

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Northern Ireland news