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Northern Ireland to begin inquiry into abuse of children in Catholic institutions

October 4, 2011

The government of Northern Ireland announced last week that an official inquiry will begin into the abuse of children who resided in the countries Catholic institutions from 1945 to 1995. While much attention has focused recently on abuse which took place in the Republic of Ireland there has not been the same level of scrutiny focused on their neighbors to the north. With the announcement of a government investigation that is about to change.

Northern Ireland set up a task force in December to determine how the inquiry would proceed. At the time Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness stated that such an investigation would “hopefully give closure to people who have for many decades felt that they were not worthy or listened to”. In preparing their recommendations the task force consulted with survivors, asking them how they would like to see such an inquiry take place.

The launch of the inquiry was announced by First Minister Peter Robinson and acting deputy First Minister John O’Dowd. They indicated that the process will be phased in over a two year period and that the inquiry will have the authority to require the release of documents and compel witnesses to cooperate. Legislation will be drafted to ensure that the inquiry has all the necessary authorization that will be required.

While the legal framework will take time to complete, the government announced immediate steps that will be taken. These include the implementation of an advocacy service for victim/survivors where they can receive counseling and support, the creation of a forum where victim/survivors can tell their stories and provide details about their experiences, and the collection of documentary evidence. Catholic institutions will be afforded the opportunity to voluntarily turn over their documents before the inquiry forces them to do so.

Any information that is discovered about predators who may still pose a risk to children will be turned over to law enforcement.

UTV in Northern Ireland aired an excellent in depth story about the inquiry that will soon take place. The story features portions of the press conference announcing the inquiry and interviews with survivors of abuse in Northern Ireland’s Catholic institutions. The survivors testify to the importance of learning the truth about what happened to them as children. It can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

It should be recognized that the nations of Ireland are leading the way in investigating and documenting the crimes that have been committed against their children by members of the Catholic clergy. The Republic of Ireland began their series of inquiries with the Ferns Report of 2005. The Ferns Report was followed by the Ryan Report and the Murphy Report, each published in 2009. The most recent inquiry, the Cloyne Report was published this year. An investigation into the diocese of Raphoe is expected to be released shortly.

Ireland stands alone in their determination to expose and document the criminal abuse of their children in religious institutions. In the United States there have been very few independent investigations into the criminal sexual violence perpetrated against American children. The most recent being the Grand Jury Report in Philadelphia released in February of this year which found that the archdiocese of Philadelphia continued to cover up reports of sexual abuse, and that priests remained in ministry who had credible reports of sexual abuse made against them.

The information that has been made available to victim/survivors, their families, and the public at large has come about mainly through the court ordered release of secret church documents. The release of this information is dependent on the ability of a victim/survivor to seek justice through the legal system and the outcome of the court proceedings. There have been some depositions of high ranking members of the church hierarchy which have been made public that have exposed additional secrets and information. This limited release of documents and testimony simply does not compare to what has been exposed in Ireland through the use of independent inquiries.

The Government of Ireland and now Northern Ireland is to be commended for their determination to expose the truth about the victimization of their children, in the hopes that it can be prevented from happening in the future. Survivors throughout the world are watching developments in Ireland closely, hoping that one day the same level of scrutiny will be placed on those responsible for their abuse.

  1. JuneAnnette permalink

    “Justice delayed, is justice denied.”- William Gladstone / British politician (1809 – 1898)

    “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for [he that is] higher than the highest regardeth; and [there be] higher than they.”
    – God’s Word as it is found in Eccl. 5:8

    May God be pleased to intervene and plead the cause of the VICTIMS!

    “It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.” – God’s Word as it is found in Psalm 119:126

  2. JuneAnnette permalink

    The following comment was left at a recent Irish Central article on the announcement of the two-year delay in Northern Ireland “Inquiry” into the abuse of children in Catholic institutions which begs the following questions . . . .
    Is this just another delay tactic orchestrated by the RCC in order to evade and/or obstruct justice? Is this just another delay mechanism in order to delay and/or withhold compensation for the VICTIMS? Is this yet another case of the empty rhetoric the we have become so accustomed to hearing from the RCC over the years of this protracted SCANDAL?

    “Many child sex abuse inquiries have taken place in Northern Ireland and all were binned.

    The first child sex abuse victim and campaigner was John Sweeney from Derry who committed suicide over the cover up from the sewers to the the 3 government offices here, as well as in London, and Dublin, and this will be the case of the present words forum at Stormont.

    Last child sex abuse inquiry was ”operation overview” in the early nineties; binned and 18 months added to father Brendan Smyth’s sentence, the rest binned!

    Can you reveal the date of an independant public inquiry into the Catholic Church childrens’ homes and dioceses? . . can you reveal the form of sentences for child raping, torturing, that priests, nuns, and de la salle christian brothers have received . . can you reveal the amount of compensation to be paid to the victims and legal rep costs etc.?
    Our police service have taken statements for 40 years from victims and the start of the inquiry will have no trouble compelling these within a week.”

    Perhaps someone within your organization may wish to probe more deeply into these matters.

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