The largest gathering yet of Northern Ireland victims of institutional child abuse will take place in Belfast on 7 October 2010 at a conference organised by Amnesty International to press for the establishment of an independent inquiry.
Dozens of people - now in their fifties, sixties and seventies - who suffered abuse as children in institutions such as Nazareth House in Belfast and Termonbacca children's home in Derry/Londonderry, will be at the conference, hoping that the Northern Ireland Executive will move soon to publish proposals for an inquiry. The conference brings together victims, campaigners, commissioners and counsellors from the inquiry and redress processes in the Republic of Ireland and Scotland to share lessons that can be learned in Northern Ireland.
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:
"The many children - now adults - who suffered abuse in institutions in Northern Ireland deserve justice. This is now long overdue. The Northern Ireland Executive has an urgent and overriding obligation to conduct a thorough investigation of child abuse both inside and outside Church-run institutions within this jurisdiction.
"We have been assured by the First and Deputy First Minister that they wish to deal with this matter effectively, so it is crucial that an inquiry and redress process are structured to meet the needs of victims and meet international human rights standards. It is on these twin objectives that the Time For Justice conference will focus."
Margaret McGuckin, of the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse group, has welcomed the conference:
"Today's event shows that the victims and survivors are gathering strength and we are not going to give up our fight for justice. We want more people to join us in our campaign for an inquiry and to be ready to come forward and give evidence.
"Justice should be done for the hundreds of victims across Northern Ireland. This means that a proper inquiry must be established and we are grateful to Amnesty International for their support in our campaign. In the past we were ignored and forgotten about - that will not happen again and we will keep the pressure on government until they deliver."
Among the conference speakers will be Andrew Madden, who, in 1995 became the first clerical abuse victim to go public in Ireland, and Bernadette Fahy, who experienced abuse at Goldenbridge orphanage in Dublin and went on to found the Aislinn Centre for survivors of institutional abuse.
Also addressing the conference will be Norah Gibbons and Marian Shanley, members of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, which produced the Ryan Report, which found that institutional child abuse in the Republic of Ireland was "endemic and widespread" and that the government and religious orders failed to protect children or to investigate complaints.