Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Wednesday, 5 September 2012 16:15 UK

OFMDFM Committee

The Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) presented a series of concerns regarding the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, on 5 September 2012.

The inquiry, which will be headed by retired High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart, will examine allegations of abuse at children's homes, care institutions and borstals between 1945 and 1995.

The Chief Commissioner, Prof Michael O'Flaherty, said institutional abuse was as profound an issue of human rights as you could find.

He welcomed the inquiry as "important, significant and timely", but said the commission had a number of concerns.

These included the limitation of the inquiry to institutional abuse, to the exclusion of other abuse happening outside the home.

The professor also spoke of the failure of the bill to take heed of the "Jordan Principles".

The principles called for any such investigation to be independent, capable of identifying the individuals responsible, prompt, open to public scrutiny, and that it should involve the victims.

Prof O'Flaherty was unhappy about the inquiry being restricted to the years after 1945.

He said that if a victim was living they should have "full right of audience to the inquiry".

Committee chairman Mike Nesbitt asked how easy it would be to fix the faults identified by NIHRC.

The professor said there was "nothing here that we feel is not fixable".

The committee then took evidence from SAVIA, Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse.

Jon McCourt of SAVIA said they were concerned about the cut-off point of 1945. He said there were not many survivors from that period but "they should be there as of right".

Mr McCourt called on the MLAs to ensure that the bill would become law by Christmas.

He said an extension of months would see extra anxiety for the survivors of abuse.

"Months could be seen as stalling and would not be acceptable to us," he added.

Mr McCourt's SAVIA colleague, Margaret McGuckin, called for redress for the victims.

She noted that if someone was knocked down in the road then they were compensated.

Many victims of institutional abuse were unfit for employment as a result, she said.

Following the evidence sessions the committee discussed the question of dates to be covered by the inquiry.

Mr Nesbitt said the Children's Law Centre had suggested that the inquiry should include cases post-1995.

OFMDFM committee membership


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