Concerns raised over planned apology to victims of historical sexual abuse in Northern Ireland

The Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse has written to the First Minister and deputy First Minister expressing serious concerns that a planned apology will not go ahead.

It comes as the future of Stormont hangs in the balance following the resignation of Paul Givan as First Minister

Mr Givan and Michelle O’Neill were scheduled to apologise on behalf of the powersharing Executive on March 11, five years after the move was recommended in the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry report.

In the letter, seen by the PA news agency, Commissioner Fiona Ryan (pictured) wrote: “I have been listening and speaking with victims and survivors all morning since this news broke.

“Words like anger and sadness don’t come near to describing their feelings – rage, devastation and betrayal are far more accurate but underneath those is profound sadness.

“How much more are we going to ask victims and survivors to endure before they hear, ‘You were never to blame. We failed you. We are sorry?’

“How much longer must victims and survivors wait?”

Ms Ryan said the issue went “beyond politics” and that the Executive has “a duty to deliver the promised apology”.

She added: “The idea that victims and survivors are once again being made to feel disregarded and discarded cannot be allowed to happen.

“It was only two weeks ago today, on 20th January, on the fifth anniversary of the Historical Abuse Inquiry report, that the Executive announced the 11th of March as the date for the apology to victims and survivors.

“The symbolism of that date deeply resonated with victims and survivors. Now, 14 days on that apology hangs in the balance.”

She warned that if the apology is not made, it risks causing “further trauma” to victims and survivors.

“It will send the message that once again they are not seen and not heard and the pain and suffering they endured as abused children is once again being ignored,” she wrote.

Ms Ryan noted that a review of the redress process is under way, and asked for clarity on how it would proceed if Stormont collapsed.

“How will any recommendations be taken forward or will the review simply be left to lie on a shelf to gather dust?” she asked

“I am beseeching you to examine every possible avenue to making this apology happen for victims and survivors of institutional childhood abuse.”

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry examined allegations of physical, emotional and sexual harm of children in residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) The Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse.