Abuse Probe Call Gets Stormont Response

An 'options paper' has been circulated around MLAs in the NI Executive regarding potential ways forward on dealing with historical child abuse in Northern Ireland.

The Minister for Health, Michael McGimpsey, agreed to prepare a paper for the Executive after the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a motion expressing concern at the findings of the Ryan Commission report.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Ryan Commission) was one of a number of measures introduced by the Irish Government in May 1999 to respond to revelations of abuse of clerical and institutional abuse.

The Stormont motion also called on the Executive to commission an assessment of the extent of abuse and neglect in Northern Ireland.

The Minister said: "The twin issues of historical institutional and clerical abuse are very complex and responding to them in a sensitive and meaningful way represents a huge challenge for all of us.

"At the heart of this are all the victims, who as children suffered terrible abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to be protecting and caring for them.

"The issues involved here are extensive and complex and I have sought to reflect that complexity in the paper.

"Our intention is to ensure that in meeting the needs of victims whether by issuing apologies, establishing inquiries or setting up new compensation arrangements, that no victims are left behind," he explained.

"Important choices will now have to be made but I believe that action must be taken to address the pain and distress caused to so many victims," and, the Minister continued, "whilst our response must consider the needs of victims of historical abuse, I believe that those who perpetrated abuse should be investigated by the police and where appropriate be subject to the full rigours of the law.

"It is clear that some of the individuals who perpetrated this abuse, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, are still alive and pose a potential risk now and in the future to children. I would urge anyone with any information on abuse to report it to the police immediately."

Safeguards are in place within Northern Ireland to protect children and other vulnerable groups, but the Minister said these will only be fully effective if the names of persons who have abused are known to the police.

He continued: "It is essential that information on people who have abused is shared as part of our safeguarding arrangements so that they can be monitored and investigated by the police.

"We know that people who pose a risk to children can and do cross borders to abuse and to try to evade detection. Our response must reflect this and should involve addressing some of the issues in conjunction with other administrations within the UK and with the Republic of Ireland," the Minister concluded.

See: Bishop Seeks 'Renewal' Of Church


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