Five Stormont ministers are preparing to issue a long-awaited public apology to survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland.
It comes five years after a public inquiry into 22 children’s homes found shocking mistreatment between 1922 and 1995.
Margaret McGuckin became the face of the campaign for an inquiry when she went public on the abuse she had suffered.
Nazareth House children’s home in Belfast, where she grew up, is now an apartment block but memories of the place still haunt her.
She said: “It’s still the same red brick and the middle floor, where I was with my sister, well it’s still there in my mind’s eye, I can still see it.”
Margaret was just three years old when her parents separated. She and her three siblings ended up in the so-called care of the Nazareth Sisters.
She recalled: “We didn’t have a name, we didn’t have a birthday, we weren’t a part of this world in their eyes.
“We were the lowest of the low and the spawn of the devil and that’s literally what they told us, that we were going to burn in hell.”
The Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was the largest of its kind ever undertaken in the United Kingdom.
The late Sir Anthony Hart, a retired judge, recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology but the collapse of devolved government delayed the process.
The resignation of the first minister in February threatened to thwart the apology again, so five other ministers are stepping in.
Sam McBride, Northern Ireland editor of the Belfast Telegraph, describes it as a symptom of the “unwieldy politics” of Stormont.
He said: “It ought to be a very straightforward issue. It ought to be like giving money to the health service or to schools or to public services which everybody uses.
“There are victims here that are Catholic and Protestant and of all sorts of backgrounds and yet it has taken this inordinate amount of time to get to where we are,” he added.
Margaret says the public apology won’t bring her closure because no one has ever been held accountable for the abuse.
“We were tortured, from little children I can remember, until the day I left. It was a hellhole,” she said.