Northern Ireland news

Institutional abuse survivors 'shocked' after retired Free Presbyterian minister criticises public apology

Abuse survivors Kate Walmsley and Margaret McGuckin. Picture by Mal McCann

INSTITUTIONAL abuse survivors have said they are appalled by claims from a retired Free Presbyterian minister that a long-awaited public apology to victims on behalf of the Executive "is linking the unionist and Protestant people with crimes carried out chiefly by Roman Catholic clerics and nuns".

In a letter published in yesterday's News Letter, Rev Ivan Foster wrote that he was "horrified" that First Minister Paul Givan and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill will make an official apology to victims in March 11.

Statements will also be made by the institutions criticised by the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) report.

The HIA inquiry, chaired by the late Sir Anthony Hart, exposed serious sexual, physical and emotional abuse over decades at children's homes run by religious orders, charities and the state.

Rev Foster wrote: "If Paul Givan, the DUP first minister of Northern Ireland, does indeed offer an apology to those who suffered shameful treatment as children within homes supposedly established to look after them, he is linking the unionist and Protestant people with crimes carried out chiefly by Roman Catholic clerics and nuns within Roman Catholic institutions.

"That is a step too far in the campaign of ‘mutuality' pursued by Sinn Fein/IRA and the other pro-republican, anti-British parties that make up the majority in Stormont, and in which parade the DUP lamely limp along at the rear.

"Let every condemnation be heaped on every wicked and guilty person and establishment, irrespective of their religious profession, but let not any unionist representative give the impression that the Protestant people share in the guilt and shame of these terrible events."

Campaigner Margaret McGuckin, from Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia), said Rev Foster's remarks were an attempt to sow division.

"I was shocked by this," she said.

"We've worked with people all across the community.

"I've had a lot of messages from people from the Protestant community who are very angry at what he wrote. They said 'is this a joke'?"

The HIA report highlighted that children were abused in homes run by the state.

In 1981, three senior care staff at Kincora Boys' Home in east Belfast - William McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains - were jailed for abusing 11 boys.

Prominent Orangeman McGrath, who founded hardline loyalist group Tara, was an MI5 agent.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news