Appointment of Truth Recovery Independent Panel

The Executive Office has appointed a 10-person Independent Panel to progress the work of the Truth Recovery Programme.

Establishment of the Independent Panel was a key recommendation in the Truth Recovery Design Panel’s Report on Mother and Baby Institutions, Magdalene Laundries and Workhouses in NI, which was published in October 2021.

The report outlined the need for an integrated truth investigation which consisted of an Independent Panel and a Statutory Public Inquiry.

The following people have been appointed to the Independent Panel as Expert Members across six areas of expertise:

Leanne McCormick and Sean O’Connell – Social and Oral History / Co-Chairs

Patricia Canning – Sociology of Discrimination and Gender-based Violence
Beverley Clarke – Trauma Informed Practice
Mark Farrell – Archiving
Colin Smith – International Human Rights Law and Domestic Law
Steven Smyrl – Genealogy

Dr Leanne McCormick and Professor Sean O’Connell, both of whom have significant experience and expertise in this area, will share the role of Chair of the Independent Panel. 

The following people have been appointed to the Independent Panel as Victim-Survivor representatives:

  • Maria Cogley
  • Paul McClarey
  • Roisin McGlone

The Victim-Survivor representatives will enhance the Panel’s understanding and appreciation of the experience of former residents, adoptees and their families and help to ensure a Victim-Survivor centred approach.

Dr Denis McMahon, Permanent Secretary of The Executive Office, said:

“I would like to congratulate the newly appointed members of the Truth Recovery Independent Panel.

“The Independent Panel appointments are a critical part of the integrated truth recovery investigation. The experience and expertise of the appointees reflects the importance of this work, which will be underpinned by a victim-survivor centred approach.

“This work will be critical to supporting and shaping not only the future statutory public inquiry but other elements of the Truth Recovery Programme which are progressing in parallel.”

Dr Leanne McCormick and Professor Sean O’Connell, Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel, said:

“We are delighted to be appointed Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel.

“A primary role of the Independent Panel is to provide those with direct experience of the institutions and practices, an opportunity to provide their testimonies in a non-adversarial, supported, and if requested, confidential way.

“We appreciate the importance, impact and responsibility of the Independent Panel and our roles. We look forward to working with victims and survivors and with the rest of the Panel to support access to truth, acknowledgement and accountability.”

The Independent Panel will complete its work within 24 months – a key focus will be primary research via oral testimonies before presentation of findings, analysis and conclusions.

Notes to editors: 

1. The Northern Ireland Executive appointed a Truth Recovery Design Panel in 2021 consisting of Ms Deirdre Mahon as Chair and members Dr Maeve O’Rourke and Professor Phil Scraton which reported on Mother and Baby Institutions, Magdalene Laundries and Workhouses in NI. It had five recommendations including an integrated truth investigation. In November 2021, the Executive accepted the recommendations of the Report and agreed to implement them in full.

2. The public appointment process for the Independent Panel launched in October 2022. The Executive Office today announced the appointment of the 10 members in the roles of Co-Chairs, Expert Members, and Victim-Survivor Representatives.

3. Caption: Dr Leanne McCormick and Professor Sean O’Connell, Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel.

4.  Panel member bios:

Dr Leanne McCormick – Dr McCormick is a Senior Lecturer in Modern Irish Social History and Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland at Ulster University.  In January 2021, alongside Professor Sean O’Connell, QUB, she published a research report entitled ‘Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries in Northern Ireland 1922-1990’.  Her research interests include women’s history, history of sexuality and history of medicine in Ireland/Northern Ireland and she has published widely in these areas. She is the co-founder of the Bad Bridget Project and co-investigator on the Queer NI Project.

Professor Sean O’Connell – Professor Sean O’Connell is a professor of History in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy, Philosophy and Politics.  In January 2021, alongside Dr Leanne McCormick, UU, he published a research report entitled ‘Mother and Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries in Northern Ireland 1922-1990’. Sean’s teaching and research interests include working class family and community, oral history, gender history, consumerism, the social history of modern Britain and the social history of modern Belfast. He is an editor of the journal Oral History and a founder of Quote Hub, Queen’s oral history related collective and website.

Dr Patricia Canning – Patricia is a Lecturer/Researcher in Forensic Stylistics, Linguistics and Discourse Analysis at Northumbria University. She is an applied linguist specialising in forensic texts and contexts. Patricia’s work includes the investigation and analysis of police reporting, particularly the attribution and deflection of blame through individual and institutional language choices. She was involved in the work of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and the Independent Panel report into the 2022 Champions League Final in Paris.

Beverley Clarke – Beverley is a social worker with over thirty years’ experience in the UK and Canada. She is also a qualified Expert Witness.   She was a member of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry Acknowledgement Forum and a Truth Facilitator for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).  Beverley is also a non-judicial member of the HIA Redress Board.

Mark Farrell – Mark is an experienced Archivist, Records Manager, educator and researcher. Mark is Co-founder and Director of Ireland’s first archives and records management consultancy company, Arcline Ltd.  He is also a lecturer and tutor on accredited postgraduate courses in archives and records management.

Colin Smith – Colin Smith BL is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the Honorable Society of King’s Inns. He practises as a barrister in the field of human rights law. He is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Law at Trinity College Dublin, where he is joint coordinator of the Human Rights Clinic. He is a member of the Human Rights Committee of the Bar of Ireland.

Steven Smyrl – Steven Smyrl is a professional genealogist specialising in legal and probate research. A past president of Accredited Genealogists Ireland, he is chairman of the Irish Genealogical Research Society, and a founding member, and former chairman, of the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO). 

Maria Cogley – Maria Cogley is a primary school teacher from Belfast. She was actively involved with the Truth Recovery Panel throughout its investigation period and is a member of the victim/survivor Consultation Forum working with The Executive Office to implement the recommendations of the Truth Recovery Report. Currently, she is part of a working group, established by the NI Department of Health, which has been tasked with developing guidance for Adoption Agencies (including Health and Social Care Trusts) relating to the disclosure of adoption records which they hold. The need for the guidance was identified by the Truth Recovery Design Panel. Maria’s mother was sent to Marianville mother and baby institution in Belfast in 1969 when her pregnancy was discovered. Ten days after her birth, Maria was placed with her adoptive parents. Maria will not only be advocating for her now deceased mother and adoptive brother, but also for the thousands of people, like herself, who have been and continue to be affected by these institutions, forced adoption and related pathways and practices.

Paul McClarey – In his professional career Paul has spent 15 years working as a marketing manager for a global drinks company and has spent the last ten years working in the NHS where he is a senior manager. Paul is a member of the victim /survivor Consultation Forum and participated in the UTV documentary ’An Island’s Shame’. Paul has also given his testimony to The Executive Office scrutiny committee at Stormont, along with other victims & survivors. Paul was born In Marianville Mother & Baby Home, Ormeau Road, Belfast. Paul’s mother, Katie, was 18 years old and spent 5 months in the institution before being immediately transferred to St Mary’s Magdalene Laundry for a further 3 months. Paul was taken away from his mother at 18 days old and spent time in a care home before being adopted at 7 years old. In his early 20s he traced his mum only to discover she had died tragically aged 29.

Roisin McGlone – Born in Belfast, Roisin has designed and lead conflict transformation programmes in Belfast and across the island of Ireland. A Human Rights Activist, she has worked Internationally in programmes in Croatia, Macedonia, Guyana, America and South Africa. She was one of two Community Relations Nominees on the Civic Forum and was an Assistant Boundary Commissioner for Belfast. Roisin was an independent member of The Northern Ireland Policing Board, and a board member of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council. Roisin graduated with a Masters degree in Philosophy in Reconciliation Studies with the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin.

5. All appointments are made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland requires the political activity of appointees to be published. All the appointees have declared that they have not engaged in any political activity in the last five years.

6. Draft legislation is being prepared for the NI Assembly for a statutory public inquiry.

7. The Expert Panel members will be required for a minimum of five days per month and may be required to work evening and weekends.  It is likely that the time commitment for the member(s) appointed as Chair will be greater than that of other members.  The frequency of meetings will be determined by the Panel.  Panel members will be entitled to claim £500 per full day worked plus travel and subsistence costs (expenses will be paid at NI Civil Service Rates).  It is expected that the Independent Panel will carry out a significant programme of work over the lifetime of its existence – including work at both evenings and weekends.  The remuneration arrangements proposed reflect the considerable investment of time and commitment expected from applicants. 

8. The Victim-Survivor Panel members will be required to commit to a minimum of two days per month and may be required to work evening and weekends. The frequency of meetings will be determined by the Panel.  Panel members will be entitled to claim £500 per full day worked plus travel and subsistence costs (expenses will be paid at NI Civil Service Rates).

9. The roles require extensive travel across Northern Ireland in order to engage with a broad range of stakeholders although Panel meetings are likely to be held within the Greater Belfast area.  When suitable, consideration will be given to virtual attendance at meetings according to individual circumstances.  Members may also be required to travel to GB and the Republic of Ireland to fulfil their duties.