Boris Johnson sacked him, but Julian Smith is a hero to us, the victims of abuse in church care

The Guardian

February 15, 2020

By Margaret McGuckin

Ex-Northern Ireland secretary pushed through law promising justice for children abused in orphanages

Regardless of what the prime minister thinks of the minister he swiftly sacked last week as Northern Ireland secretary, for victims of institutional abuse Julian Smith remains our guardian angel.

For those who have been campaigning for justice, Julian’s brief time in Belfast should be remembered for championing our struggle. Julian did more to ensure survivors of sexual and physical abuse in state-funded institutions got recompense and recognition than any other politician over many years.

He had the drive and the decency to single-handedly push the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Act through the House of Commons in November – only a few months after becoming secretary of state. This will create a redress board that will compensate the victims/survivors of abuse that occurred in places such as orphanages and care homes here.

I have been campaigning for an inquiry into institutional abuse in Northern Ireland since 2008, on hearing about the Ryan report into the serial abuse of children in the Republic of Ireland. No matter how much I tried not to listen or read of the horrific accounts of child sexual and physical abuse, neglect and humiliation, in those harsh and very dark places, in the south of Ireland, something finally took hold of me. I had to face a painful truth: this was what I had endured from the age of three to 11.

I listened to one BBC report from Dublin where a lady talked of being almost drowned in baths of disinfectant, beaten, starved, humiliated, neglected, and horrifically abused in so many ways, as had her brothers, sexually, physically, mentally and emotionally.

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