Abuse survivor warns over public apology before review of redress scheme

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  • Anthony Hart
    Lord Chancellor of Ireland
Cyril Glass who was abused after he was sent to Rathgael Training School (Deborah McAleese/PA) (PA Archive)
Cyril Glass who was abused after he was sent to Rathgael Training School (Deborah McAleese/PA) (PA Archive)

A historical institutional abuse survivor has said that any public apology to victims in Northern Ireland should not come before a review of a compensation scheme.

Cyril Glass, who suffered abuse at Rathgael and Lisnevin Training Schools in Co Down, warned that otherwise a public apology could end up “retraumatising” victims.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA ) was set up in May 2012 to investigate allegations of abuse in 22 institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 to 1995.

The inquiry, chaired by the late Sir Anthony Hart, investigated historical allegations of child abuse in residential institutions run by religious, charitable and state organisations.

At the conclusion of the inquiry, Sir Anthony recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Redress Board was set up in 2020 to receive and make determinations of awards of compensation to victims and survivors.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and First Minister Paul Givan announced a review of the HIA redress scheme in December (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and First Minister Paul Givan announced a review of the HIA redress scheme in December (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)

In December, First Minister Paul Givan and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill announced a review of the process after a number of victims expressed concern about their experiences.

But Mr Glass, who leads the victims’ group Survivors Together, said there is apprehension from some victims that there will be a drive to bring forward the public apology prior to the findings of the review.

Mr Glass said: “When we became aware of a push toward a public apology being organised before the outcome of the independent review, we were immediately troubled and contacted the office of the junior ministers and the HIA Implementation Branch of the Executive Office to raise our concerns.

“We met with junior ministers Gary Middleton and Declan Kearney at Stormont Castle and informed them that any push toward a public apology without first knowing the findings of the independent review would be irrational and would make the apology futile.”

After waiting five years since Sir Anthony published his report, we would feel it only proper to take time now to get this right for everyone

Cyril Glass

He said he also met with the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse, Fiona Ryan, to express concerns.

Mr Glass added: “We explained that if the findings of the independent review were negative and demonstrated failings on the part of the redress scheme, then a public apology beforehand would be equivalent to re-traumatising or victimising victims.

“We would welcome an apology.

“Nevertheless, after waiting five years since Sir Anthony published his report, we would feel it only proper to take time now to get this right for everyone.”

A spokesperson for the Executive Office said: “We want to ensure that victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse get the acknowledgement, redress and support they deserve.

“Ministers are committed to delivering a public apology in line with the recommendation in the Hart report.

“We recognise that this is an incredibly sensitive issue, and that there are a range of views across the sector on the nature and timing of the apology.

“Ministers have met victims’ and survivors’ groups to move forward on this, and we will continue to engage with them and the commissioner as we work to progress this key recommendation.”

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