HIAI update from Northern Ireland

Sir Anthony Hart, Chairman of the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI), took the unusual step of releasing a statement last week.

The Terms of Reference for the HIAI were announced by the First and Deputy First Ministers on the 31 May 2012, when they also announced the identity of the Chair and detail about the Acknowledgement Forum.

The HIAI’s remit was to investigate physical, emotional and sexual childhood abuse, and childhood neglect which occurred in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period up to 1995.

The HIAI ran for four years, had 223 days of public hearings and heard from 527 witnesses.  The report, comprising 10 volumes, was published on the 20 January 2017.  It had previously been submitted to the First and Deputy First Minister and the Secretary of State on the 6 January but unfortunately the devolved institutions had been halted over disputes within the Executive meaning there was no effective body to receive and consider those recommendations.

The political instability created by the collapse of the Stormont Executive and the calling of a snap General Election has delayed further the consideration of the many recommendations made in the Report.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the General Election has not assisted in forming a clear path for the new negotiations aimed at reinstating the institutions in Northern Ireland.

It is in this climate of uncertainty for all concerned with the HIAI, that Sir Anthony has openly called for urgent consideration and implementation by all parties of the recommendations in his report.

Those recommendations include the creation of a Commissioner to represent those who spent time in residential care and the creation of a Redress Panel and fund.  The establishment of these high profile institutions will it is expected feature prominently in the coming months as the various parties negotiate their positions in both Westminster and Stormont.

Written by Ciara McReynolds, solicitor at BLM

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