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 should run in parallel to the inquiry to allow the women and girls who were sent to the institutions to give testimony in a less adversarial format.
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 two years from its appointment (with periodic reports in the interim).
The Independent Panel should continue thereafter to perform residual functions including archival support to the Public Inquiry, recommendations as appropriate to the Public Inquiry, and information access services for victims, survivors and relatives pending creation of the permanent independent repository.
Membership of the Independent Panel should include:
– Victims-Survivors representatives between them having experience of institutionalism and the adoption system
– Senior Practitioners in:
• The sociology of discrimination and gender-based violence
• International Human Rights law and domestic law
• Social and oral History
• Trauma Informed Practice
Adoption of the guiding principles for both the Independent Panel, and the Statutory Inquiry:
• Respect for human rights of victims-survivors and relatives and a commitment to protecting and fulfilling human rights
• Full access to information for victims-survivors and relatives of the deceased
• Central involvement of, and accountability to, victims-survivors and relatives
• Accessibility, particularly to persons with disabilities
• Inclusion of victims-survivors and relatives affected by cross-border practices and in the Diaspora, and relatives of the deceased
A competition to appoint the Chair and Expert Members and Victim-Survivor representatives to the Independent Panel was launched on 17 October 2022 and closed on 4 November. It is hoped that Independent Panel members will be appointed in April 2023.