Victims of historical institutional abuse victims were left “deeply hurt” by the cutting short of a Stormont committee evidence session earlier this week, MLAs have been told.
Fiona Ryan, the commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Abuse, returned to the Executive Office committee on Friday to take questions from MLAs.
A previous session on Wednesday had been ended early following her opening remarks as there were not enough MLAs present to meet the required quorum for the meeting to continue.
Committee chairwoman Sinead McLaughlin (SDLP) said while she knew what happened had been “unintentional”, she said “due to a lack of information in relation to what everybody was doing, a really serious discourtesy was shown to a very vulnerable stakeholder group”.
“We’ve done damage to our committee as well, I will be making a fulsome apology on behalf of the committee,” she added.
Ms Ryan acknowledged the apology given by the committee, and said “while we all live in the real world where things happen but at the same time I would be neglectful if I didn’t convey to this committee the deep hurt and upset of survivors after what happened Wednesday”.
“I think it’s important for all of us in this space to understand that for many survivors they had a lifetime of their experiences being denied or minimised, their reality being rejected, and they have spent a lifetime carrying a burden that was never theirs to take on, and so what happened on Wednesday, for many of them, brought up those feelings again,” she told MLAs.
Compensation is being paid to people harmed in residential homes run by religious orders and the state in Northern Ireland following the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.
By the end of November, 2,199 applications had been received by the Redress Board. Determinations totalling £32.2 million had been made and some £28.8 million paid out in redress.
However, many abuse survivors have contended the process of applying for the redress has retraumatised them.
First Minister Paul Givan and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill announced a review of the process earlier this week.
In a statement after the meeting, Ms Ryan said she raised a number of outstanding issues with MLAs.
That included that, five years on from the concluding of the inquiry, survivors are still waiting for an official apology as well as concerns with the redress process.
“Survivors have waited too long to have their voices heard and to receive long-awaited recommendations. Many are now in advancing years, some in poor health and time is very much of the essence,” she said.
“I impressed upon MLAs the need to move forward at pace with a date and plan for an apology to victims and survivors, complete the review of the redress process and also raise more awareness of the services and support available to survivors of historical institutional childhood abuse.
“The committee’s interest today was welcome and particularly that they have agreed to follow up with the Executive on these issues in a formal letter.”