UK & World News
Abuse Inquiry Uses Posters To Find Victims
A state inquiry into historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland has taken the unprecedented step of posting billboards on bus stops to encourage survivors to come forward and give evidence.
To date, 175 people have volunteered to recount their experiences but the team examining alleged mistreatment in residential facilities over a 73-year period believes there are more potential victims.
Northern Ireland's devolved government announced the state inquiry after a series of reports in the Irish Republic revealed a shocking level of abuse in facilities operated by the Catholic Church.
Earlier this week, there were emotional scenes in the Irish parliament when Prime Minister Enda Kenny apologised to women who had been forced to work in the church's Magdalene Laundries.
The Northern Ireland inquiry will cover similar workhouses (if residents were younger than 18) along with children's homes, orphanages, industrial schools, borstals, hospital units and schools for children with disabilities.
It will focus on institutions operated by state, church and voluntary bodies (1922-1995) but its remit does not extend to mainstream schools or to clerical abuse committed outside residential facilities.
The availability and willingness of witnesses will dictate whether or not high profile cases, such as the Kincora Boys' Home abuse scandal of the 1970s, are included in the investigation.
A spokesman for Sir Anthony Hart, the retired judge chairing the inquiry, said: "Sir Anthony wishes to ensure that as many victims and survivors as possible are made aware of the existence of the inquiry, and of the steps which the inquiry is taking to try to address the fears of those who may be worried about lifting the telephone...
"The inquiry appreciates that, for many victims and survivors, recounting their experiences can be very painful and traumatic. We hope our promotional campaign will encourage potential witnesses to come forward."
Potential witnesses will first be invited to recount their experiences in a so-called acknowledgement forum, which is designed to provide a relaxed and private environment for people to unburden themselves.
Application forms can by downloaded from the website www.hiainquiry.org or requested on Freephone 0800 068 4935.
The inquiry, estimated to cost between £15m and £19m, must report by January 2016.