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Northern Ireland abuse inquiry given deadline


historical abuse inquiry, northern irelandCall for victims and witnesses to come forward.

The final deadline for people wishing to apply to give evidence at the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry will be 29 November 2013, the inquiry’s chairman, former high court judge Sir Anthony Hart has announced.

And he made fresh calls for people now living outside Northern Ireland who had been abused as children in the country to come forward.

The inquiry is looking at all types of abuse: physical and emotional as well as sexual.

Hart has also called for people who worked at the homes, either in a paid or a voluntary capacity, and who witnessed abuse to contact the inquiry.

So far 363 people, some in their 80s, have already made formal applications to speak to the inquiry. Hart said that more than 100 were living in mainland Britain, the USA and Australia.

A team from the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is due to travel to Australia to meet potential witnesses after documents examined by the inquiry revealed that, between 1947 and 1956, 110 children were sent from institutions in Northern Ireland to institutions in Australia (primarily Western Australia), as part of a UK government policy of child migration.

The Historical Abuse Inquiry is tasked with examining if there were “systemic failings” by state and church in children’s homes in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995.

The locations include 15 state-run children’s homes – the majority of which were run by local authorities, 13 institutions run by the Catholic Church, four borstals or training schools, and three institutions run by Protestant churches or voluntary sector organisations.

And at the inquiry’s third public hearing in Belfast, held at the beginning of September, Hart named, for the first time, some of the institutions under investigation.

Margaret McGuckin was one of the first victims to submit an application to give evidence to the inquiry.

She left Nazareth House, a children’s home in Belfast run by the Nazareth Sisters, in 1968, when she was 11 years old.

“We were child slaves from a very young age,” she told the Guardian.

Young children were expected to carry out gruelling domestic chores and were wantonly punished, she says. “We were getting practically drowned in baths, beaten and starved. It was pure and sheer neglect: coldness, cruelty and humiliation.”

McGuckin, now 56, became a campaigner for survivors of abuse a few years ago, after seeing someone she had been in Nazareth House with talking on television about the abuse she had experienced.

The inquiry has an Acknowledgment Forum where survivors can tell experienced professionals in private, and in confidence, about the abuse they experienced. This Acknowledgement Forum panel will in due course produce a report for the inquiry chair detailing the various experiences recounted to them in a fully anonymised form.

The November deadline does not apply to the Acknowledgment Forum.

To contact the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry telephone: 0800 068 4935 (free from landlines); visit the website or write to FREEPOST HIA Inquiry.

If you live outside the UK you can write to us at HIA Inquiry, PO Box 2080, Belfast, BT1 9QA, Northern Ireland.

This inquiry is separate from a recent major police investigation in Northern Ireland that has already led to the arrest of more than 30 people for sexual exploitation of children and young people who went missing from the care system over the past 18 months.

The vast majority of these victims were young girls, although it is understood that a small number of young boys were also abused.

Northern Ireland’s health minister Edwin Poots has said the abuse was on a scale not seen before in Northern Ireland and compared it to recent high-profile court cases in Rochdale and Oxford.

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