Northern Ireland news

Institutional abuse: Stormont committee meeting to be held again today after previous one was halted

Margaret McGuckin of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse. Picture by Mal McCann

A STORMONT committee meeting on historical institutional abuse will be held again this morning after a previous meeting had to be stopped because there were not enough MLAs.

Survivors of institutional abuse said they had been "let down again" after Wednesday's meeting of the Executive Committee had to be halted because several MLAs left.

The Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Abuse, Fiona Ryan, had given a presentation on her work and was waiting to take questions when she was informed that the meeting had to be halted.

The committee is responsible for overseeing the recommendations of the landmark Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry which exposed serious sexual, physical and emotional abuse over decades at children's homes run by religious orders, charities and the state.

Margaret McGuckin, from Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse, said the halting of the meeting was "humiliating" for survivors.

"It was just a kick in the teeth," she said.

"It was like going back in time and feeling that rejection again. Who really cares about us? Our commissioner was speaking on our behalf. What they did to her they did to us."

She said she hoped today's meeting would go ahead as planned.

"I hope there will be a full quorum to show some respect for victims of abuse who have been let down constantly," she said.

"Who is going to listen?"

Ms Ryan said abuse survivors had "expressed deep hurt and upset that the session was abruptly cut short".

"We are now five years on from the Hart Report and survivors of HIA have yet to receive an apology and some have expressed serious issues with the redress process," she said.

"Survivors have had to wait for far too long to have their voices heard and to receive long-awaited recommendations set out in the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry."

SDLP committee chair Sinéad McLaughlin apologised after the meeting had to be halted.

"What kind of message does this send out to survivors, who have been often left feeling let down and abandoned during their quest for truth and justice?" the Foyle MLA said.

The Historic Institutional Abuse (HIA) report, published in January 2017, recommended an apology and a suitable memorial for victims - neither of which have been done.

Ms McGuckin said she hoped an apology would be made next month around the fifth anniversary of the publication of the HIA report.

It is understood that Stormont officials are working on the wording of an apology.

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