Victims have demanded public inquiries into clerical child abuse and Mother and Baby Homes in Northern Ireland following the resignation of the independent chair of a Stormont task force with responsibility for making recommendations on the issues.


Norah Gibbons, the independent chair of the Northern Ireland Executive’s Inter-Departmental Working Group on clerical abuse and abuse in Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries, resigned yesterday (Monday) morning on health grounds.


This has led to the cancellation of planned meetings, which were due to take place today, that the task force was due to have with victims, Amnesty International and others. Victims have been waiting for over a year for a meeting with the Group.


Eunan Duffy was born in the Marian Vale Mother and Baby Home in Newry before being taken from his mother against her will and placed for adoption and is calling for a public inquiry into alleged abuse which took place in the homes. He said:


“I cannot believe that, after a year of waiting to meet with government officials who are making key decisions about our lives, the Chair has resigned and the meeting has been cancelled. As far as we are concerned, this Working Group has been an exercise in time-wasting.


“We are now calling for a fresh approach, one where the victims are listened to. Our message now, as it has been for years, is that we want a public inquiry. We want government to finally listen to us, rather than simply waste more time by looking for a new Chair for a process which has lost all credibility by its failure to meet with victims in more than a year.”


Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said:


“Our thoughts are with Norah Gibbons and we wish her a speedy and full return to health.


“Women from Mother and Baby Homes in Northern Ireland have told Amnesty International that they suffered arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and the forced adoption of their babies – criminal acts in both domestic and international law.


“Meanwhile, more and more clerical abuse victims are coming forward to reveal their suffering at the hands of abusive priests and gross failures by church and state authorities.


“Serious allegations of abuse must now be met with investigations with the necessary hallmarks of independence, effectiveness and transparency. Victims have long called for public inquiries into these serious abuse allegations. They deserve to be heard.”


We regret to hear that Norah Gibbons has resigned due to ill health and hope that she makes a swift recovery.


Sadly the victims are left in an entirely unsatisfactory situation.  Six years on from the implementation of the HIA Inquiry and the survivors and victims of the Mother and Baby homes and clerical abuse in Northern Ireland are still no closer to any form or vindication or justice for the inexcusable wrongs that were perpetrated on them.  It will not be acceptable to victims that delays in political progress to are put forward as valid excuses for why they are denied justice.  Victims demand an immediate commitment to a Public Inquiry. 


Further, today we hear that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has stated that these are matters that must be dealt with by the devolved institutions and a restored executive must decide on the way forward.  Victims are outraged at this stance given that the leader of the DUP has herself made it clear publically that she does not believe that there are any prospects of a return to power sharing in the near future.


Survivor of Malachy Finegan Paul Gilmore is disgusted by this position and considers it:


“A Convenient excuse not to deal with these important matters and a delay that the government is content to implement.  Karen Bradley had no difficulty putting together and implementing the budget last week dealing with all of the other “devolved matters.”  She obviously doesn’t want to deal with it and doesn’t appreciate the severity of the allegations.  It’s a disgrace that the delays initially caused by the Catholic Church in dealing with these matters are now being exacerbated by the political process. We have waited too long as it is.”