Brandon Lewis welcomes ‘deserved’ apology for historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said “it is only right” that victims of historical institutional abuse will receive a formal apology in Stormont.

The apology will be given by five Stormont ministers on behalf of the powersharing executive on March 11.

A public apology was recommended in the final report of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI), which was published five years ago.

It will be followed by apologies from each of the institutions where systemic failings were found in the inquiry report.

Speaking the House of Commons, Mr Lewis (pictured) said: “It is only right that victims and survivors are now receiving a formal apology for the abhorrent abuse they suffered whilst residing in institutions that were meant to care for them.

“This is another key recommendation of the Hart Report and it is to be welcomed.

“For too many years the voices of victims and their appeals for help went unheard. On March 11 they will receive a full and unconditional apology that is so deserved for them.”

Mr Lewis was speaking during a sessions of questions on Northern Ireland in the House of Commons.

Elsewhere in the session, Mr Lewis would not rule out triggering the Northern Ireland Protocol’s Article 16 mechanism, despite calls from an SNP MP to take the measure off the table in light of the war in Ukraine.

Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) asked if the Government would rule out triggering Article 16 “once and for all”.

She said war in Ukraine “threatens to undermine global food security including, of course, for those across these islands”.

She said triggering Article 16 would be “reckless and unnecessary even without a war raging on the European continent”.

Mr Lewis said: “Absolutely not. We are very clear that we’ve got to keep all options on the table.

“Article 16, of course, is part of the protocol and is the right way, if we can’t resolve these… is the proper legal process to take things forward.

“Ultimately the right result, the result we’re focused on, the result the Foreign Secretary is focused on, is getting a resolution by agreement with the EU. But be under no doubt, we are determined to make sure that Northern Ireland can get access to goods in the way that it should be able to from Great Britain.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told the Commons that if the Chancellor Rishi Sunak sought to reduce VAT on “home heating oil”, he would need the permission of the European Union.

Sir Jeffrey insisted “this cannot be right”, claiming his constituents are being deprived of support because of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said: “At this time, households across all of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, are struggling because of rapidly increasing home heating costs.

“In Northern Ireland, we are subject to EU VAT rules. This means that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer sought to reduce VAT on home heating oil, he needs the permission of the European Union and all 27 member states to do such an action.

“Surely, this cannot be right that my constituents are being deprived of the support they need from Government because of the protocol.”

Mr Lewis said Sir Jeffrey was right in “highlighting just another one of the many areas where the protocol is creating real problems on the ground for people in everyday lives”.

He added: “We must remember the protocol itself says it will not disrupt the everyday lives of people in their communities.

“He’s given yet another example where the protocol itself and the implementation of it is doing exactly that. That has to stop.”

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