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14 Jan 2014
• See also: NI Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry
Hundreds of witnesses will give evidence to the inquiry
Two religious orders in the Catholic Church have apologised for the abuse suffered by children in their residential homes.
The comments were made on the second day of the inquiry into historical abuse in 13 Northern Ireland care homes and borstals between 1922 and 1995.
Lawyers for De La Salle Brothers and Sisters of Nazareth made the apologies.
The Health and Social Care Board also said that if the state had failed in any way it was sorry.
A barrister representing De La Salle Brothers offered their “sincere and unreserved apology” for the abuse at its home in Kircubbin, County Down.
The QC said the Brothers “deeply regret that boys in their care were abused”.
He said their mission was to look after the welfare of vulnerable and deprived children, and the abuse by some Brothers “was in contradiction to their vocation.
“They recognise that there have been failures to protect the victims,” he said.
HIA abuse inquiry – the numbers
• 434 people have made formal applications to speak to the inquiry
• 300+ witnesses are expected to testify during the public hearings
• 263 alleged victims have already given statements to the inquiry’s acknowledgement forum
• 13 residential institutions are currently under investigation by the inquiry team
“This inquiry represents perhaps the last opportunity to establish what exactly occurred during the operation of the homes.”
The inquiry also heard admissions made on behalf of the Sisters of Nazareth order of nuns.
A barrister representing them said they “recognise the hurt that’s been caused to some children in their care”.
“They apologise unreservedly for any abuse suffered by children in their care. They go forward hoping that lessons will be learned, not just by them in the provision of care, but also by carers generally in society and in wider society at large.”
A barrister for the Health and Social Care Board said that where it had failed to meet acceptable standards, it offered its apologies to those involved.
Christine Smith Christine Smith QC outlined the context in which institutional care in Northern Ireland had operated
Earlier, it was told that some children’s homes in Northern Ireland in the 1960s were relics of a bygone era.
Post-war welfare reforms were not adopted by some institutions, the senior counsel to the panel said.
“The evidence suggests that those homes operated as outdated survivors of a bygone age,” said Christine Smith QC.
Outlining the context of institutional care in Northern Ireland, she said the status of children historically could be illustrated by the fact that while the RSPCA was set up in 1824, the NSPCC was not set up for another 60 years.
Institutions under investigation
Local authority homes:
• Lissue Children’s Unit, Lisburn
• Kincora Boys’ Home, Belfast
• Bawnmore Children’s Home, Newtownabbey
Juvenile justice institutions:
• St Patrick’s Training School, Belfast
• Lisnevin Training School, County Down
• Rathgael Training School, Bangor
Secular voluntary homes:
• Barnardo’s Sharonmore Project, Newtownabbey
• Barnardo’s Macedon, Newtownabbey
Catholic Church-run homes:
• St Joseph’s Home, Termonbacca, Londonderry
• Nazareth House Children’s Home, Derry
• Nazareth House Children’s Home, Belfast
• Nazareth Lodge Children’s Home, Belfast
• De La Salle Boys’ Home, Kircubbin, County Down
The barrister told the inquiry of one submission received by a woman who had been in care between 1971 and 1976.
She detailed how after wetting her bed, she had her nose rubbed in it, before being stripped, left in a cold room and then forced to wash in cold water and disinfectant.
The biggest ever public inquiry into child abuse ever held in the UK is investigating claims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as childhood neglect.
The public hearings stage of the inquiry, which began on Monday, is being held in Banbridge, County Down, and is expected to last for 18 months.
The inquiry’s remit is limited to children’s residential institutions in Northern Ireland.
During that time, it is due to hear evidence from more than 300 witnesses, including former residents who claim they were abused as children, the people who ran the institutions, health and social care officials and government representatives.
The inquiry’s remit is limited to children’s residential institutions in Northern Ireland.
To date, 434 people have contacted the inquiry to allege they were abused.
Ex-judge leading inquiry calls on government and accused institutions to co-operate in fair and open way
13 Jan 2014
Sir Anthony Hart, chair of the inquiry. (Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)
A retired judge in charge of the biggest inquiry into child abuse in UK legal history has appealed for openness from the institutions in Northern Ireland where crimes against children allegedly took place.
Opening the public inquiry into 13 orphanages, young offender centres and other places where children were kept in care, Sir Anthony Hart said the government had to be open in its dealings with the tribunal.
“This may be a challenging process for everyone involved, but it is our hope that everybody, whether from government or from the institutions, who is requested to assist the inquiry will co-operate in a fair, open and wholehearted way so that this unique opportunity will not be wasted,” Hart said at Banbridge courthouse where the hearings will take place.
He assured the more than 400 victims – 300 of whom will give personal testimony to the court – that they “will have the satisfaction of knowing that their experiences are being listened to and investigated”.
Christine Smith, senior counsel for the inquiry, told the court: “By examining how vulnerable children living in children’s homes between 1922 and 1995 were treated, this inquiry will examine the soul of Northern Ireland in that period.”
The inquiry will examine claims of sexual and physical abuse including at the Kincora boys’ home in east Belfast, where a senior Orangeman and a number of loyalist extremists are alleged to have raped children.
The inquiry may also explore allegations that the security forces – both MI5 and RUC Special Branch – knew about abuse in Kincora, but failed to act against those responsible because many of the alleged abusers were state agents.
There will be written and oral testimony from 434 individuals. The inquiry will also investigate how 120 children from the institutions were sent to Australia as part of a child migration policy between 1947 and 1956.
The hearings are scheduled to continue to June 2015 and could cost up to £19m. Campaigners in Britain said they wanted the inquiry to extend to England and Wales.
Jonathan Wheeler, a lawyer and founding member of Stop Church Child Abuse, said: “The start of this inquiry will be a relief to the alleged victims, allowing them to take heart in the fact that a process intended to bring them justice is at last under way. Lessons must also be learned by the authorities and all those responsible for the care of young children to prevent this kind of abuse from ever happening again.
“We have been calling for a similar over-arching inquiry in England and Wales. The government has refused, but if Northern Ireland can tackle the issue why should survivors here be denied their say and the proper scrutiny of all they have suffered.”
10 Jan 2014
• See also: In Flanders Fields
Northern Ireland’s first and deputy first ministers have joined the Irish deputy prime minister in launching Irish World War One records online.
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness met Eamon Gilmore in Dublin to mark the launch.
It means records are available to a worldwide audience.
Digital records of individual Irish soldiers are now available online, following collaboration between Google and the In Flanders Fields museum.
“As we enter an important decade of commemorations in both our countries, it is my hope that what has been established here today will keep alive the history and the stories of those who did not return from war,” Mr Robinson said.
“This work will allow the stories of the fallen to be recorded for the benefit of future generations and will allow us to express our thanks and acknowledge the sacrifice of men who died helping to preserve our freedom.”
Mr McGuinness said: “Over 200,000 Irishmen fought in the war and over 49,000 were killed, which shows the human impact of the war on the island of Ireland. It is important all their personal stories are told and this innovative project ensures the memory of those Irish soldiers killed will continue.”
In July 2012, the Irish ambassador to Belgium, Eamonn MacAodha, launched a project with Google to make records available to all and absolutely free.
The collaboration with Google ensured that the work could be financed and technically supported.
Log on to In Flanders Fields, type in a name and see the place of birth, rank, regiment, service number, date of death and place of burial / commemoration of each individual soldier with that name, where the information is available.
Classes run by sister-in-law of late PUP leader David Ervine at new language centre
9 Jan 2014
Development officer Linda Ervine and PUP founder member Sam Evans (left) with teacher Maitiú Ó hEachaidh at the new Irish language centre ‘Turas’ on the Newtownards Road in Belfast, which opened last night to cope with an increasing number of learners. (Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker)
An Irish language centre has opened its doors, offering a sincere fáilte romhaibh to the people in loyalist east Belfast. It is on the Newtownards Road. That is Bóthar Nua na hArda.
In response to keen local demand, the Turas (journey) project offers conversation-style language classes to young and old, says development officer Linda Ervine, sister-in-law of the late David Ervine.
A former UVF prisoner, he was a significant voice at the peace talks which led to the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and leader of the loyalist Progressive Unionist Party (PUP).
“People ring me on a weekly, even daily basis,” said Ms Ervine. “All we are doing is opening the door.”
A former English teacher at the local Ashfield school for girls, Ms Ervine developed her love of the language which grew alongside her interest in what she calls the “hidden history” of her part of Belfast.
“I tell people Irish is all around us – it’s in our placenames, it’s everywhere,” she said. “There’s gaGaelic language here, in Scotland, in Wales and in Cornwall. It’s not just an Irish thing, it’s British as well.”
Three years ago, an Irish class began on the strongly loyalist Newtownards Road where the fada and fáinne are rarely seen. About 20 people turned up, and now there are eight classes at various levels. Provision has expanded into one of the local schools.
Housed in the Skainos centre, a community facility linked to the East Belfast Mission church, Turas offers classroom facilities, offices and a social space.
A large indoor mural depicts the twin cranes of Harland and Wolff casting their shadows over a map of the working class streets below. “The mural was painted by David’s son Mark, my nephew. There is no peace line on the map, no politics. There is no agenda.”
That’s a reference to the inclusion of the republican enclave of Short Strand and the main electoral base of local Sinn Féin councillor Niall Ó Donghaille, who attended the opening ceremony along with party colleague, bilingual Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.
The opening honours went to Sam Evans, a founder member of the PUP, in the presence of unionists of all varieties and the Alliance Party.
Some 120 learners have signed up for the free courses which are supported by Foras na Gaeilge and the Stormont Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.
8 Jan 2014
Former INLA volunteer Tony O’Hara, whose brother Patsy was the fourth republican to die in the 1981 hunger strike, yesterday said that during the Troubles “not one life was worth it”.
The 57-year-old, who spent five years in prison for INLA activities, said “nothing will be achieved by the current republican [dissident] campaign apart from filling up jails”.
“They [dissidents] need to realise that,” he added. “Even years ago when I was involved I had difficulty about taking life. But then it seemed a necessary part of the war.
“If they continue it is a waste of their time and only inflicts hardship on a community that is already under terrible hardship from the economy and everything else.
“What they [dissidents] are doing at the moment is going nowhere. When we look back all the people who lost their lives, and those who were injured and hurt in attacks and bombings everywhere, it achieved nothing.”
The former blanketman, who was the cell mate of the first republican prisoner to die on hunger strike, Bobby Sands, added that “all those lives were lost and it wasn’t worth it”.
“Hindsight is a great thing,” he added. “Myself and my friends were prepared to die so that Ireland would be free. But what was I prepared to die for?”
He added that “nothing will be achieved [by dissident republicans] by fighting on apart from misery”.
“Nothing can be achieved for the next 20 years, if they keep going, apart from more people going into jails.
“There is no difference between what the Provos were fighting for and what they [dissidents] are fighting for.
“But the big difference is the lack of support from the community. It is not there any more. If you look back in the history of Sinn Fein from 1975/76 you see headlines like ‘Smash Stormont’.
“Now years later the same members are in government there. They [Sinn Fein] keep on using the word dissidents, but the Provos were the largest dissident group going.
“They left the IRA. For them to use the word dissidents when they themselves were dissidents is laughable.
“They use the word like it is a dirty word.”
Mr O’Hara said that is why he did not use the term.
The Derry man, who joined the INLA in 1975 when the IRA went on a temporary four-month ceasefire, added he “never had any hope for the Haass talks”.
“When you get people who are so entrenched in their position there is no chance of them moving on.”
Tony O’Hara is the sixth former senior republican and blanketman to speak to the News Letter calling for dissidents to examine the history of the Troubles and rethink their campaign.
In recent weeks former senior Provisional IRA man Tommy Gorman said “a group of us have been making this point about dissidents for a long, long time”.
Earlier, former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins asked dissident republicans to “try and come up with a non-violent alternative because there is no appetite or support for a violent conflict in this country among any significant number of the population”.
Former Provo Tommy McKearney said he believed dissident republican violence was bolstering Sinn Fein support.
And in the first of the series former senior IRA men Anthony McIntyre and Richard O’Rawe branded the ongoing dissident campaign as “madness” and called for them to stop.
Mr McIntyre said: “Republicans lost the war and the IRA campaign failed and the dissidents need to be told that it failed rather then be allowed to continue thinking what they do. It cost so many lives.”