About the Independent Panel

On 15 November 2021 the deputy First Minister made a statement to the Assembly regarding the Truth Recovery Design Panel’s Report on Mother and Baby Institutions, Magdalene Laundries and Workhouses in NI. In this statement the deputy First Minister accepted, on behalf of the Executive, the recommendations of the Report and agreed to implement them in full.

One of the recommendations was the creation of an integrated truth investigation which should comprise of an Independent Panel of experts and individuals from the victims-survivors constituency with experience of institutionalisation and the adoption system; and, a full Public Inquiry.

The non-statutory Independent Panel, which was appointed on 27 April 2023, will run in parallel to the inquiry and 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.

Given the complexity of accessing and analysing documents, hearing testimonies and receiving written accounts from victims-survivors the Independent Panel’s main report on its evidence-gathering process should be completed within 24 months from its appointment (with periodic reports in the interim).

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

Beverly 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.

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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.

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.”