29 Sept 2022

McLaughlin slams "unforgiveable" Givan for quitting First Minister post and "re-traumatising" institutional child abuse victims

Sinead McLaughlin

Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin: "It is difficult to think of a worse event in the life of a child than to be abused by those in charge of protecting and caring for them."

Foyle SDLP MLA, Sinéad McLaughlin, slammed Paul Givan's decision to resign as First Minister as “unforgiveable” saying it had left victims of historical institutional abuse “re-traumatised”.

Ms McLaughlin made her comments during Members Statements at the Assembly in Stormont earlier this afternoon in relation to the apology to abuse victims being delayed due to DUP MLA Mr Givan's decision to quit his post.

Both him and Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Féin in their capacities as joint First Ministers were to give historical victims of institutional abuse (HIA) an official apology on behalf of the State for sexual, physical and psychological abuse suffered by those victims when they were children in the care of State homes run by the churches and charities.

Mr Givan's resignation has put up a delay to legislation due to be debated by the Executive as well as actions such as the official apology to child abuse victims.

With the prospect of the DUP not even returning to the Executive after the next Assembly elections due in May, Ms McLaughlin expressed concern that those victims and survivors would be denied their apology and that the actions of Mr Givan had placed more distress and trauma upon them.

She said: “It is difficult to think of a worse event in the life of a child than to be abused by those in charge of protecting and caring for them.

“For some of those children it was sexual abuse, for others it was physical abuse. For many more, it was psychological abuse and for some, it was all those things.

“Those children are now adults. Those who survived – many in declining years with some having tragically died – that abuse was made much worse over the years by the knowledge that society looked the other way.

“Those who should have taken responsibility did not do so. In some instances, these were institutions of the Catholic church. In others, it was institutions of the Protestant faith and some were abused and neglected in homes run by charities.

“In all of these cases, these institutions were operating on behalf of the State. That is why it is right and proper for an apology to be issued in the name of the State by its most senior representatives – the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister.

“After decades of campaigning, victims believed that progress had been made with the inquiry led by Sir Anthony Hart. The inquiry reported in January 2017 – more than five years ago. Victims expected the recommendations to be adopted and implemented as well as redress, a memorial and an apology.

“Five years on, some victims have received financial redress but there has been no memorial and no apology which many of the victims see as the most important element of this redress.

“Those victims have been contacting me all weekend to tell me that they feel insulted, they feel hurt, they feel upset and that they are re-traumatised because that apology – which they expected five years ago – was promised to be finally delivered on March 11 of this year.

“Yet it will not be delivered to them. In fact, how can it be delivered on behalf of the State when the First Minister walked out of his job.

“I can totally understand why the victims and survivors feel this hurt and this fresh trauma. I share their upset. I have spoken with groups and survivors and I feel this pain that they have expressed so clearly and so distinctly to me.

“We all have our political priorities. We all have concerns that drive us as politicians. But quite frankly, how can we do this to these people and to neglect them so badly?

“The action of the First Minister was unforgiveable.”

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