Sinn Féin - On Your Side

West Belfast MLA and Junior Minister Jennifer McCann MLA speaking on Survivors of Institutional Abuse

13 April, 2013 - by Jennifer McCann

There can be little doubt that abuse, no matter what its shape or form, is a stain on our society.  A stain, sadly, that some were all too willing to cover up, preferring to protect the institutions rather than the victims who had been placed in their care for protection.

I know that when the issue of abuse is raised that the focus invariably turns to the institutions of the Church.  Let us be clear, the Church has been consistently guilty of covering up abuse and of moving abusers from parish to parish.  What they sought was to hide the problem but the end result was that more children were abused.

However, child abuse was not just limited to the Church or its institutions alone.  Child abuse happened and unfortunately still happens in families, communities and wider society as well.

We all have to play a part in protecting our children and young people from this horrendous crime.  For those of us in power we have to remember that we have a duty of care to those who are placed in institutions. 

In the North the Executive recognised that responsibility when it established the inquiry into historical institutional abuse.

 When young people were placed into care then the institution took on the role of acting as a parent. 

Caught up in this position young people had no outlet to inform people of what was happening to them. 

Fearing, rightly in my opinion, that if they were to report the abuse that not only would they not be believed but that they would suffer further abuse.

The survivors of institutional abuse, those young children who were placed in their care, whether they were run by the state or not, had a right and an expectation that the state would care properly for them.

That was not the case.  The state failed many of those young children and we have a responsibility now to address those failings, not only to make reparations for what took place in the past but also to ensure that it is never repeated.

Recently we have begun to see that survivors of institutional abuse were not only young children but women who were located in what have become known as the Magdalene Laundries. 

We also have a duty of care to address what took place in these institutions and I am confident that we will also properly address this issue.

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