15/05/2019

Outrage As Plans For Historical Abuse Compensation Delayed

Political representatives in Northern Ireland have hit out at the Secretary of State Karen Bradley for pushing back the prospect of legislation to give compensation to victims of historical abuse.

Payments for victims were recommended in 2017 by The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA), but the lack of a functioning executive at Stormont has stalled the process. Ms Bradley has now said the prospect will be considered as part of the negotiations to restore the devolved institutions.

Former Victims Commissioner Mike Nesbitt expressed "disgust" that steps have not been taken to redress the victims, following a request by the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

The Ulster Unionist MLA also accused Ms Bradley of using the victims as simple "pawns" in government negotiations. He commented: "The Secretary of State is simply wrong to suggest the quickest route to a resolution for victims is through the Programme for Government Working Group that is part of the current political talks. The direct route lies in her doing her job, and taking the matter to Westminster. Is she really trying to tell us that anyone is going to object to the government providing some recompense for people who were horribly abused through no fault of their own and have spent a lifetime waiting for redress?

"The Head of the Civil Service, David Sterling, has confirmed there is not a single penny in this year's budget for victims of historical institutional abuse- not a penny. That means more than three years will have passed since Sir Anthony Hart's Public Inquiry vindicated their claims of abuse before anyone receives the support he said they are due.
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"In suggesting the issue should be included in the discussions over the Programme for Government, Ms Bradley is suggesting victims become pawns in a negotiation, potentially bartered against the issues that are holding up the restoration of devolution. That is morally wrong and politically crass.

"I just hope this latest setback provokes a wave of revulsion over the way the victims and survivors are being treated and I urge the public to make their views known. Sometimes in life, there are turning points. Let us make this one of them."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood reiterated the accusation that victims of institutional abuse are being used as pawns in the talks process, slamming the failure of parties to agree on a compensation scheme after he tabled amendments when the legislation was passed at Stormont.

The Foyle MLA said: "Victims and survivors have had to publicly recount horrific experiences of physical, mental and emotional abuse of the course of decades. The process has been traumatic but their strength and resilience has been immense.

"It is an act of cowardice and bad faith to exploit their pain and the public support for their cause in an attempt to force a political outcome. The Secretary of State is wrong to use those who have suffered so much as political pawns.

"But let me be clear - all parties had an opportunity to guarantee victims and survivors access to a compensation scheme. I tabled amendments to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry legislation at Stormont that would have provided the Inquiry with the opportunity to publish an interim report on requirements for redress to be taken forward. The DUP, Sinn Féin and UUP opposed those proposals. 

"Parties must unite to support the recommendations of the Hart report. Victims and survivors of institutional abuse cannot wait any longer. The SDLP has always supported them. We will continue to fight their corner."



(JG/CM)

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