The Department of Health and The Executive Office set up an interdepartmental Working group to “take forward work on historic Mother and Baby Home/Magdalen Laundries and historical clerical child abuse” in June 2019. At that time they appointed Mr Peter McBride to the position as independent Chair of the group. His role was to initially run for a period of one year.
The group was tasked to consider evidence (to include evidence arising out of research) and to then make appropriate recommendations to the NI Executive ministers on steps to proceed with those allegations.
A separate group was necessary as these areas fell outside the Terms of Reference of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry and so could not form any part of the recommendations following that Inquiry.
The Interdepartmental Group includes representatives from The Executive Office, departments of health, justice, education, economy, communities and will have access to advice from the Departmental Solicitors Office.
On 6 July 2020 the Executive announced that former Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie had been appointed as the new chair to the group. Again her appointment ran from 1 June 2020 and is intended to run for an initial period of one year. Former DCC Gillespie has served on the Probation Board in NI along with roles in the Equality Commission, Garda Policing Board and Prison Service Pay Review Body.
Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the appointment and expressed confidence in her ability to use her experience to promote the work of the group.
Ms Gillespie expressed her desire to take forward the work of the group at, what she described as “a crucial stage”.
Little is known about the group or its work and its Terms of Reference are not easily accessed and there is no open engagement with stakeholders to date.
Future announcements will be awaited with interest.
Ciara McReynolds, Solicitor, BLM