Just over a week after the NI Executive opened the process to appoint a full-time commissioner for victims and survivors of institutional abuse the Interim commissioner, Brendan McAllister, has come under further pressure to resign as a result of his role in the Catholic Church. It was known that he had started the process of becoming a Deacon in the Catholic Church and he recently took part in a service in St Peter’s church in his full clerical garb.
Some victims did not accept the appointment of Mr McAllister following the disclosure of this role and have again called for his resignation or removal from his position. Unfortunately this latest call on him to step down or be removed follows similar calls from the same people after a significant data breach from his office last month.
While one group supporting victims has repeated their calls, other groups have been more supportive of Mr McAllister. One commented that the constant attacks on Mr McAllister were disgraceful and that the group calling for his removal did not speak for all victims. They acknowledge the work he has done and believe he has acted with integrity and that his personal beliefs have not impacted on his representation of victims. He therefore retains the support of some of the victims and survivors.
The full time post was advertised in early June with the Executive Office confirming that the appointment would be for an initial five years and that they hoped to have the position filled by the end of the summer. This post was one of the recommendations made in the report of the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) and Mr McAllister was appointed in an interim basis following the collapse of the Executive to assist and to provide a focal point and voice for the survivor groups. The current Redress Scheme and associated legislation (also recommended in the HIAI Report) all came into operation during his time.
Mr McAllister will not be applying for the full time role and has said he never intended to apply.
The conflict between the various groups who oppose and support Mr McAllister shows the extremely difficult task facing the full time appointment. The Commissioner will need to address the wide range of issues facing victims of abuse and navigate a path which advocates for all victims without conflicting with individual views on some of the more sensitive issues.
Fintan Canavan, Partner, BLM
For more information on BLM’s Abuse & Neglect practice, please click here.