Victims of child abuse in Northern Ireland get official government apology

LONDON (AP) — The government of Northern Ireland on Friday issued a formal apology to people who were abused in orphanages and children’s homes, telling them “the state has let you down.”

Ministers from the five political parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly read an apology to survivors gathered at the government buildings in Stormont near Belfast. Representatives of six institutions where abuses took place also publicly apologized to those who were hurt.

“We neglected you, rejected you, made you feel unwanted,” said Education Minister Michelle McIlveen of the Democratic Unionist Party. “It wasn’t your fault. The state let you down.

The formal apology came more than five years after it was recommended by the historic institutional abuse inquiry. The years-long investigation revealed shocking levels of physical, sexual and mental abuse in state-run institutions, churches and charities between 1922, when Northern Ireland was founded as State, and 1995.

Northern Ireland launched an inquiry following similar work in neighboring Republic of Ireland, where four state-funded inquiries from 2004 to 2011 concluded the Catholic Church had engaged in a cover-up pattern of child abuse by its officials for decades.

In Northern Ireland, a part of the UK with complex British Protestant and Irish Catholic divisions, abuse has been recorded at institutions run by Catholic and Protestant religious groups and the Barnardo children’s charity.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy of the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party admitted that the apology was slow in coming.

“We should have protected you and we didn’t. We are sorry,” he said. “You have been hurt by those who should have taken care of you. We are sorry.

“You told the truth, but you weren’t believed. We are sorry. We are responsible. And we’re so, so sorry.

Northern Ireland is carrying out a separate inquiry into abuse in homes for single mothers and their babies.

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