HIAI report anniversary

Saturday 20th January marks the first anniversary of the publication of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Report.  The report was published having been delivered to The Executive Office (formerly The Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers) as it was required to do.

The Northern Ireland Executive announced it’s intention to set up an Inquiry into abuse in residential care homes on the 29th September 2011.  Sir Anthony Hart, a High Court Judge, was appointed as the Chairman and he was assisted by Geraldine Doherty and David Lane as lay panel members who brought with them years of experience in the field of residential care and social work.

The Inquiry looked into the provision of care in a number of residential homes between 1922 and 1995. They received applications from 526 individuals.

Created by statute the Inquiry had the power to compel witnesses to attend and to recover documents from many sources to aid in it’s investigations. Following the evidence sessions the Inquiry prepared a 10 volume report which included recommendations to be presented to the Northern Ireland Executive.

Since the report was delivered to the Executive Office and then formally launched Northern Ireland has been in a state of political stalemate. The then Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, resigned following disagreement over the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI), there have been new elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly and to Westminster but negotiations to restore the devolved institutions have failed thus far.

The recommendations from the Inquiry include:

  • An Apology from the Northern Ireland Executive and from the Institutions;
  • A memorial. The form of this memorial has not been set;
  • A Commissioner to act as advocate for former residents and to co-ordinate additional services for them;
  • Counselling services funded for a 10 year period;
  • Redress.

Of these the creation of a Commissioner’s Office and the creation of a Redress scheme will require new legislation to be enacted. There will need to be consultation with a number of parties in the process to deal with the issues which will arise going forward and consideration will need to be given to the proper budgeting for these separate but inter connected schemes.  Legislative draftsmen and adequate parliamentary time will need to be allocated to ensure that any implementation is properly and effectively enacted and to avoid creating further difficulties by rushed and ill considered procedures.

The on going impasse has created a vacuum which does not assist any party in the process and there is no clear end in sight. New talks are to take place but with the pending Brexit issues and legislative redrafts needed for that and the time representatives will need to devote to the changes Brexit will cause in Northern Ireland in particular the uncertainty as to the direction of the Recommendations and to  the implementation of the same will only continue to grow.

Written by Ciara McReynolds, solicitor, BLM

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