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Government has shied away from compensation for abuse victims, campaigners say

Published 28/09/2016

Margaret McGuckin has called on the government to 'get something sorted' in relation to compensation for child abuse victims
Margaret McGuckin has called on the government to 'get something sorted' in relation to compensation for child abuse victims

The government has been accused of dragging its feet over compensation for victims of historical child abuse.

Campaigners claim political leaders have "shied away" from the issue of financial redress and reiterated appeals for urgent action.

Margaret McGuckin said: "We are asking and pleading to our government, please come off the fence, stop these excuses and get something sorted.

"How many more of us are going to be dead and gone?"

The plea was made as members of an expert panel examining potential compensation schemes briefed MLAs on the Executive scrutiny committee at Stormont.

Ms McGuckin, a high-profile member of the panel, added: " What people want is to be compensated so that for the remainder of their life they can live in some sort of peace and tranquillity, and to afford some comfort.

"Our people were unemployable; the majority of them have had no life because of the many years spent in these institutions and the damage it has done, whether physically, emotionally or mentally."

One suggestion includes a common recognition payment for all victims which could be further supplemented on further analysis of individual experiences.

Jon McCourt said: "For many survivors there is nothing historic about the abuse they suffered.

"While no amount of money can reduce the harm caused, a compensation payment could ease the pressure and help to make life a little more comfortable for survivors in older age.

"Importantly, compensation can have a significant vindicating effect on survivors. It is an acknowledgement of the failure of the state to protect vulnerable children."

Also giving evidence was Professor Patricia Lundy, who slammed the lack of consultation with government ministers and officials.

The Ulster University academic claimed victims had been left feeling "distressed" because the issue of redress was not being dealt with.

She also claimed correspondence with the DUP's junior minister had not been acknowledged.

Public hearings of the public inquiry into child abuse at residential homes ended in July after two-and-a-half years.

Hundreds of vulnerable former residents provided deeply personal and harrowing claims of sexual, physical and emotional suffering over many decades in care homes run by the church, state and the Barnardo's children's charity.

The inquiry's chairman, retired High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart, is set to present his report to Stormont ministers in three months' time and is expected to recommend financial compensation be paid.

Sinn Fein MLA Sean Lynch pledged support for the victims of institutional abuse, adding : "Some will argue there will be no excuses once Judge Hart reports."

The DUP's Christopher Stalford said action was required.

The South Belfast MLA said: "It is obviously important that the government is not only seen to act but does act."

In a statement issued after the committee hearing, the Executive Office said it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the findings of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry.

A spokesman said: "Ministers remain sensitive to the views of all those who have suffered abuse and are mindful of the destructive impact it has had on many people.

"The Executive Office has not engaged in consultation on this matter as it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the Sir Anthony Hart inquiry findings.

"The inquiry will be making its recommendations, including a fully formed recommendation with regard to redress, in its report to the Executive in January 2017.

"The nature or level of any potential redress, as stipulated in the inquiry's terms of reference, is a matter the Executive will discuss and agree following receipt of the inquiry's report."

The spokesman also said officials continue to engage on a regular basis with all victims of historical institutional abuse.

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