Page last updated at 21:29 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Clerical abuse inquiry demand

St Conleth's Reformatory School, Daingean, Offaly

Victims of clerical child abuse in Northern Ireland have called for an inquiry into how they were treated.

The solicitor acting for victims of abuse in both Catholic and state-run institutions has written to the first and deputy first ministers detailing their demands.

They say they have been discriminated against because inquiries in the Irish Republic have not been extended here.

A report published in the Republic this year said abuse there was "endemic".

The Ryan Report detailed widespread sexual, physical and emotional abuse in Catholic-run institutions.

It was commissioned in 2000 following a series of scandals involving Catholic priests in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Belfast-based solicitor Joe Rice is acting for many of the abuse victims.

"Our clients feel that they are totally disadvantaged," Mr Rice said.

"They feel that they are being discriminated against because if their abuse had taken place in the Republic of Ireland instead of Northern Ireland, they would have had at this stage the benefit of a commission to examine their complaints.

"And indeed they would have been able to seek compensation for the huge injuries they suffered."

"Broke down"

Mr Rice said he had recently been approached by a woman who lived in such an institution.

"She broke down when she told me about instances of abuse which were visited upon her and her sisters in a fairly well-known institution in the south Belfast area.

"This was physical abuse - a lack of food, lack of hygiene, lack of compassion, lack of tenderness."

He added that he was concerned by the previous lack of action from politicians in Northern Ireland.

"There has largely been a silence from central government despite the fact that there has been overwhelming evidence that the children here were held in similar conditions to those in the Republic of Ireland."

In a statement a spokesman from the Catholic Church said that whether there should be an inquiry was a matter for the state.

"Anyone who has concerns about child abuse should raise them with the civil authorities and, if they wish, with the church's National Office for Safeguarding Children, where these concerns will be dealt with appropriately."

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