The publication today by Sir Anthony Hart of the Report into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland is a significant moment for survivors and their families. They are uppermost in my thoughts today. Notwithstanding the distressing experience of telling their harrowing stories to the Inquiry, they have shown courage, dignity and perseverance in bringing to light a dark and disturbing chapter in the life of Church and society.
This comprehensive report allows their voices to be heard and vindicated more widely so that all of us can learn the truth, however unpalatable, about what happened in the past and redouble our efforts to ensure such awful things are prevented from occurring again. Sir Anthony Hart approached his task in a balanced and objective manner. He dealt sensitively with those who were called to appear before the Inquiry. He has fulfilled a valuable service to society as a whole. It is now important for all of us to accept his findings as a fair reflection and analysis of how both Church and State failed the most vulnerable members of our society.
I welcome the publication of this Report and I accept its findings. I apologise unreservedly to all those who suffered from their experience in Church-run institutions, and to their loved ones. They have given details for all to see of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Their story is one of anxiety, isolation and pain. I know well that my words are inadequate in attempting to address the enormity of the harshness and brutality which many innocent children experienced. There is never an excuse for the abuse and ill treatment of children or any vulnerable person, in any setting. When the perpetrator is a priest or religious, it is also an appalling betrayal of a sacred trust. I am ashamed and I am truly sorry that such abuse occurred, and that in many cases children and young people felt deprived of love and were left with a deep and lasting suffering.
It is totally understandable that those abused may find it hard to forgive or find reconciliation with the Church. But we in the Church must do everything we can to submit to the demands of justice and demonstrate that we are serious about making reparation for the sins and crimes of the past. I call on all those in positions of leadership within the Catholic dioceses and religious congregations concerned to engage in a constructive and urgent manner with the agencies to be established by the new Executive to take forward this Report’s recommendations. I commit to doing all that I can – and also to encouraging others throughout the Church – to support survivors of abuse today and into the future.
Notes for Editors
- Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.
- Support for survivors of abuse: Towards Healing, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, and Towards Peace constitute the pastoral service response to survivors of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Ireland. Please see their contact details below for your use:
Towards Healing Counselling & Support Services is available to survivors of Church, Religious and Institutional abuse. The Towards Healing director is Mr Michael Lyons and the service provides lay independent and fully accredited counsellors to support survivors. Towards Healing may be contacted by:
- Freephone (UK & NI) 0800 096 3315 or (RoI) 1800 303 416
- Mobile number for Hearing Impaired Clients +353 (0) 85-8022859
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland provides advice on all aspects of case management, including notification of allegations and support for the complainant. It’s chief executive is Ms Teresa Devlin. If you are concerned about a child or young person or wish to report a child safeguarding suspicion, concern, knowledge or allegation you should contact the statutory authorities. As the Catholic Church in Ireland has a mandatory reporting policy you can also contact the NBSCCCI by:
Towards Peace is a service offering spiritual support to survivors of physical emotional or sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic Church personnel in Ireland. The director of Towards Peace is Ms Una Allen who can be contacted by: