By Rebecca Black, PA
Survivors of mother and baby homes, Magdalene Laundries and workhouses have been urged to speak to police.
Detectives are investigating allegations of abuse at the institutions which were formerly run primarily by the Catholic Church, but also by other churches and charities across Northern Ireland.
Last year, a major academic research report was published outlining the scale of mistreatment endured by thousands of women and girls in the institutions, the last of which closed in the 1990s.
Police have so far received 57 reports, including from mothers who have never met their children.
Adele Johnston, who had a baby at the Marianvale Institution in Newry, has urged victims to come forward.
“I would encourage anyone that has been impacted by the mother and baby institutions, Magdalene Laundries and workhouses in Northern Ireland between 1922 to 1990 to come forward and speak to the dedicated Police Service of Northern Ireland investigation team,” she said.
“You will be treated with complete sensitivity and respect as they wish to build a complete picture of what happened in these institutions. The only way to right the injustices of the past is to make your voices heard.”
Local neighbourhood policing teams are set to be out on the streets across Northern Ireland speaking to organisations and members of the public about the investigation.
Detective Superintendent Gary Reid said police believe some are still suffering in silence.
“The last known institution closed down in 1990. This is not a lifetime ago, and we believe there are people out there who are still suffering in silence,” he said.
“It’s important that we are engaging with our local communities about this investigation as there were so many across Northern Ireland that have been affected in some way by these institutions.
“We want to reassure anyone impacted in any way that this investigation is still very much live and ongoing and that we want to hear from them. If you were the victim of abuse or other forms of criminality in any of these institutions, or know somebody who was, or if you witnessed anything suspicious, please contact us.
“We care about what you have to say, will listen and support you, and will act to keep you and others safe.”
The dedicated Mother and Baby Institutions, Work Houses and Magdalene Laundries Investigative Team can be emailed at [email protected]
There is also a direct line telephone number which operates from Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm on 028 9090 1728.