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 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]