31/10/2019

Govt Urged To Pass Abuse Victims Bill

Local politicians have united to urge Government to pass a bill providing redress to victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland before Parliament is dissolved for the December general election.

With the House of Commons due to sit for just another week, the government said it cannot be sure the bill will pass beforehand.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds pressed the Prime Minister on the matter on Wednesday, saying: "In the dying days of this Parliament would the Prime Minister please do something for the victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland?

"The victims have been waiting for so long now, it has cross party, cross community support."

Speaking earlier, the party's Westminster leader said: "The victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland today feel very very frustrated and angry at the fact that because of this calling of the election the bill that was designed to address that issue and provide compensation is now not going to proceed."

In response, NIO Minister Robin Walker said the north Belfast MP was right to raise the issue.

"Time is of the essence when it comes to historical institutional abuse and we will do all we can to see its passage before the general election. My Secretary of State has made that clear," Mr Walker said.

"No decision had been made on this bill before the dissolution of parliament and we will do everything we can to take it forward," he said.

Compensation for such victims has support from across the local political spectrum.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said there is no excuse for delaying the legislation: "The bill forcing the election cleared in just a matter of hours and, since all the preparatory work has been done, a Historical Institutional Abuse Bill could be put through swiftly too if there is a will to do so.
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"There is no excuse for causing further delay and heartache to people who have already had to wait far too long already because of gridlock at Stormont. It is just cruel to force them to wait even longer because of gridlock at Westminster.

"The victims of abuse were also the victims of political failure from the outset. The notion that they could now be further victimised is an appalling injustice."

Sinn Fein demanded clarification from Westminster on what impact an election will have on the legislation's progress, with Michelle O'Neill among those who have written to Secretary of State Julian Smith on the matter.

The party's victims and legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon said: "The victims are absolutely distraught at the prospect there might be any delays on getting legislation implemented and redress for victims resolved.

"These victims and survivors many of whom are in poor health both physically and mentally cannot be the collateral damage in a chaotic parliament.

"Their hopes have been dashed on so many occasions and we all thought they were finally going to be able to get long-awaited redress for the terrible abuses they suffered at the hands of state and religious institutions.

"Clarification is needed urgently on this to ensure victims receive the redress they are long entitled to."

Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey said the Government is confronted with a "full-scale rebellion" due to its failure to get the Bill on the Statute Book before next week.

"I do not think any Government would want to go into an election having just deprived victims of historical institutional abuse of compensation," Lord Empey commented.

"However, it is not over and I want to make clear to victims this is not settled. Sadly, we do not have control but we have done our duty in sending it to the Commons. I hope that the level of support shown today in the House of Lords is of some comfort to those survivors watching and waiting.

"It is now over to the House of Commons. I hope they do the right thing."



(JG/CM)

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