Is Executive’s taskforce on institutional abuse any more than awkward can kicking?

I had a presser from Conall McDevitt on the day the Executive announced its task force on historical institutional child abuse which suggested that the announcement fell a long way short of the statutory instrument required to crack what is likely to be very tough nut.

In fact the announcement included mention of a statutory instrument. Although I looked for clarification from Conall on what he meant by his statement, though none was forthcoming.

But today, Patrick Corrigan (of this and of several other parishes) speaking to Chris Moore on TheDetail.tv has shed important light on McDevitt’s concerns. The primary concern is two fold.

One is the narrow, time bound nature of the window for the investigation. And two, the fact that this stage, the non statutory nature of the investigation means that institutions can fairly easily dodge any legal bullet that might otherwise be coming their way.

As Moore notes:

This briefing paper clearly stipulates that the institutional abuse inquiry will operate on a strict two-and-a-half year time scale – with the clock ticking from the moment the inquiry begins in its toothless non-statutory form.

Meanwhile the Assembly will be drafting new legislation to specifically cover this inquiry – a ‘bespoke’ piece of legislative creation as it has been described – and this process is expected to take two years, meaning the inquiry will only have powers to compel witnesses and documents in the final six months of its existence,

Under the heading ‘Time period,’ the briefing document states: “The inquiry and investigation must conclude within a two year six month period from the commencement date. The chairperson must provide his report to the Executive within six months of the conclusion of the inquiry.”

Just to reiterate, that’s two years to build a blunt instrument that will only exist for six months. Amnesty (and McDevitt) are surely right to be concerned that this action may not do what seemed to be clearly promised on the tin. [Cue the sound of several awkward cans being kicked further down the road – Ed]

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  • Cynic2

    A collection of well meaning but ill equipped civil servants with, so far as I can see, no background at all in the issues, no proven skills in searching for and obtaining evidence, evaluating witnesses. Just the prospect of endless endless committee meetings.

    And how senior are these staff? How independent are they when there are huge liabilities down the road for some departments depending on what is uncovered? I want to be clear that I am not criticising them in any way – they must feel that they have been hand picked for a suicide mission and wary of the blame that will be dumped on them by the politicians when it all falls apart

    What role or influence will Minister shave on them? Will that all be made public (I was joking on that)?

    Then we may get a Bill in two years time. May. Two years. But don’t bet on that.

    This isn’t even a chocolate fireguard. Its a melted pool of bubbling whitewash. A system sadly designed not to deliver because our politicians cant agree and don’t care enough to try