Ministers announce appointment of the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA)

Date published: 06 October 2020

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have announced the appointment of a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse.


Fiona Ryan will take up the position for a five-year term from 14 December 2020.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “This is a significant appointment, and I wish Fiona well in what will be an important and sensitive role. Even against the backdrop of a pandemic, work has progressed on Historical Institutional Abuse and the redress scheme opened in March. Victims have had to endure so much already and we have always been determined not to compound this hurt with undue delays.

“In that regard, today is a further milestone in the implementation of the Hart recommendations. But we acknowledge there is much still to do. We look forward to working in partnership with Fiona in her role as COSICA in the time ahead.”

The deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Historical institutional abuse has left a legacy of pain and suffering, and its victims were the young and vulnerable. We cannot change the past, nor right its wrongs, but we can shape the future. In welcoming Fiona Ryan as Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse we are taking another significant step forward for victims.

“Today - as with every stage of this journey - my thoughts are with the victims and survivors. No child should have to suffer abuse at the hand of their apparent carer. No victim should have to fight so hard, or so long, for redress. It is they who are at the heart of this process and continue to drive our efforts.”

Notes to editors: 

1. The Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA) is established under the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Act 2019. The principal aim of the COSICA in exercising functions under the Act is to promote the interests of any person who suffered abuse while a child and while resident in an institution at some time between 1922 and 1995.

2. The Executive Office holds sponsorship responsibility for COSICA and the 2019 Act provides for the First Minister and deputy First Minister to appoint the Commissioner.

3. The public appointment process to appoint COSICA reflected the principles and practices of the Commissioner for Public Appointments Northern Ireland (CPANI) Code of Practice.

4. The COSICA position is full time and will receive remuneration equivalent to the entry point of the Senior Civil Service (SCS) Grade 5 scale (£71,932) which will be subject to review annually in line with the overall value of the annual SCS pay award on the basis of satisfactory performance. The post is pensionable.

5. Fiona Ryan brings a wealth of experience in working with and understanding the needs of victims and survivors of trauma. She also has considerable leadership experience in promoting the needs of victims and survivors.

Fiona Ryan is currently the Chief Executive of Sonas Domestic Violence Charity, the largest provider of frontline support services to women and child victims of domestic abuse in Ireland. She is a member of the monitoring committee of the National Strategy for Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence in the South where she advocates on behalf of victims and monitors government commitments to victims under the strategy.  She is also a member of the Department of Justice's Study of Familicide and Domestic Homicide Reviews. She holds a Masters in Journalism (MAJ) and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). Fiona is originally from Cork City.

6. Fiona Ryan does not hold any other public appointments.

7. 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. The appointee has not declared any political activity.



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