Junior Minister's Speech- Amnesty International Conference On Historical Institutional Child Abuse In Northern Ireland 7th October 2010


Thank you Patrick for your kind introduction, and a very good morning to you all.

I am very pleased to be here today and have the opportunity to address you at this important conference, through which you are hoping to inform and assist the process of identifying a way forward for the victims and survivors of institutional abuse here.

I want to assure you that the Executive is committed to identifying a way forward for dealing with the matter and to do everything in its power to ensure that what regrettably happened in the past will never be allowed to happen again.

In line with this commitment many of you will already be aware and indeed I know some of you were actually present, when the First Minister and deputy First Minister met with a group representing the victims and survivors of institutional abuse on the 22nd of July this year.

This meeting was linked to an options paper produced earlier this year by the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey, on the potential ways forward on dealing with historical abuse here.

During this meeting the group outlined their views on a range of issues such as;
• an apology;
• the establishing of a public enquiry;
•  an assurance that no child would be put in a similar situation today; and
• the establishment of a Redress Board to consider the needs of victims, the possibility of legal support and how compensation and financial support could be managed for victims.
The members of the group also expressed their hope that the matter could be taken forward as quickly as possible.

The First and deputy First Minister listened to the testimonies and views of the group. They recognised the hurt and also saw the strength and the courage in people dealing with this issue. They  share the desire of survivors to achieve a satisfactory form of closure on the matter, for all those who have been affected.

I understand the very complex legal and relationship issues involved with this matter, but I am also mindful of the time with which some have carried their suffering and we are determined to move on the matter as quickly as possible.
To this end Ministers agreed that OFMDFM would now take the lead in progressing the matter and would immediately form a working group with those departments that have operational responsibility for the issues.

I am pleased to say that this work has commenced. The group has met several times and is currently working on actions to address issues such as looking at the immediate needs of people for counselling, health and advice. The group will also work with representatives to establish a conduit for survivors to input their ideas to Ministers.

I am sure that today’s Conference and its findings will also be used to inform the ongoing discussions.  I want to reassure everyone here that this matter is one which the Executive is keen to move forward on at the earliest opportunity. In agreeing any way forward however the Executive will want to be certain that it is the right way forward for all those affected by what is an extremely complex and sensitive matter.
What happened in the past was wrong. We are determined however to do everything in our power to ensure that those who were affected achieve closure and that the necessary mechanisms are in place to ensure that it will never be allowed to happen again.

You are no longer alone. 

Thank you.