Child abuse victims lawyer 'wide-ranging' inquiry call

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A solicitor representing victims of child abuse has called for an inquiry to go beyond acknowledging that the abuse took place.

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to hold an inquiry into institutional abuse.

A task force is being set up to liaise with government departments about what form the inquiry will take.

Lawyer Hugh Leslie said the investigation must also make recommendations.

"A report that says there was institutional abuse would certainly not suffice," Mr Leslie said.

"I think it's already recognised that there was abuse, but it is the level and the nature and the recommendations that come out of this report which will be the important thing."

Last year, Stormont assembly members backed the holding of an inquiry into the extent of child abuse in Catholic church and state-run institutions in Northern Ireland.

It followed the damning Ryan Report which uncovered decades of endemic abuse in some institutions.

The announcement on the inquiry was made on Thursday by the Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.


Mr Robinson said he did not envisage an inquiry on the scale of Bloody Sunday.

"If it is an inquiry that is more investigative which can be done with fewer personnel then it is very much a smaller figure," he said.

Mr McGuinness said it would "hopefully give closure to people who have for many decades felt that they were not worthy or listened to".

A statement released by the Northern Ireland Executive said an "inter-departmental taskforce" had been set up to consider the nature of the inquiry and to provide the executive with recommendations on how it could be taken forward.

"This will require examining various formats and engaging in consultations with a number of groups here and in other jurisdictions," it added.

"This will also include listening to the voices of victims themselves."

The executive said it did not underestimate the complexities of dealing with the issue and understood the need to bring closure for the victims and survivors.

"Ministers hope to move quickly to resolve the issue but also recognised the need to take the time to get the process right," the statement added.


"The executive is very aware of the suffering people have experienced and will want to make a fuller statement in the Assembly on this matter when the inter-departmental group has made progress on its work."

The statement said ministers expected that the task force would bring forward its recommendations to the ecutive by the Northern Ireland Assembly's summer recess.

Assembly members backed a motion last year calling for an assessment of the scale of abuse in Northern Ireland as well as the provision of support services.

Before that debate, campaigners delivered a petition to the Assembly.

Thousands of people signed the Justice for the Victims of Institutional Abuse in NI petition, which was handed to SDLP assembly member Carmel Hanna.

The Ryan report, which was published in May last year, took submissions from 2,000 people who said they had suffered physical and sexual abuse while in the care of Catholic-run institutions in Ireland.

The report, also known as the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, found church leaders knew that sexual abuse was "endemic" in boys' institutions.

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