06/11/2019

Consensus As Victim Redress Bill Passes Parliament

Long-awaited legislation to compensate victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland has passed through Parliament.

The redress scheme was fast-tracked through the House of Commons and has now received Royal Assent to become law. The progress comes amid fears time would run out to pass it before Parliament was dissolved for the general election.

Welcoming the move, Northern Ireland's political parties were united in their tributes to victims and campaigners. A general consensus among politicians is that the progress was also long-overdue, with calls for compensation since the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry ended in January 2017.

The inquiry recommended a scheme of compensation after examining residential institutions run by religious, charitable and state organisations.

The Alliance Party issued a statement that both congratulated campaigners on the milestone and condemned the lengthy implementation process.

South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw paid tribute to the campaigners, saying: "Without them, the victims would not be getting this long overdue recognition.

"Needless to say, this has come too late for many victims, and it is vital now implementation proceeds swiftly so it is not too late for others. This is a significant day for the campaign but the redress is still to come and the work must continue to ensure victims get the recognition they deserve."

Opening the debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Secretary of State Julian Smith said the bill was the first of its kind in the UK in terms of how survivors should receive redress.

More than 30 victims have died since the inquiry first published its findings.

Green Party Leader Clare Bailey expressed her relief and reiterated the notion that the legislation is long overdue.

"It's a bittersweet day for the victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse," the MLA commented. "These people have waited so long for redress and suffered false dawn after false dawn.
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"The campaigners have fought long and hard and I'm delighted to see them in London in what should be the final stages of their campaign for redress.

"I pay tribute to the campaigners who have shown great dignity and perseverance through this long and painful period."

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood expressed regret that the matter could not have been dealt with at Stormont.

The Foyle MLA was a member of the Stormont Committee that scrutinised the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry legislation and previously table amendments to the legislation to allow for an interim report and compensation recommendations.

"Victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse have had to wait far too long for acknowledgment of the pain they endured," Mr Eastwood said. "Their powerful testimony of horrific experiences of physical, mental and emotional abuse over the course of decades during the HIA inquiry has moved political mountains. While the process have been traumatic, their strength and resilience has been immense."

Sinn Fein echoed the sentiment that the redress scheme is long overdue, while DUP MP Emma-Little Pengelly said the progress is an example of how political parties can work together on significant issues.

The South Belfast MP paid tribute to the victims and survivors in Parliament. She said: "I hope that this financial support and what it symbolises will give some comfort and be a recognition of the hard and incredible work they have put in to stand up and address the terrible wrong that was done to them.

"This is not the end of the journey for victims, but I hope today that this redress will give some comfort and be a recognition of the incredible work they have put in to stand up and address the terrible wrong done to them and many thousands of others."

UUP Peer Lord Empey described the passage of the bill through Parliament as good but long overdue news for victims.

"I pay tribute to the steadfastness of the campaigners who have shown great resilience in the face of adversity," Lord Empey commented.

"The hard work begins again when the details of the scheme are worked out, but today is still a good day for the victims of this abuse, albeit one they have regrettably been forced to wait a very long time for."



(JG/CM)

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