Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland child abuse victims slam 'derisory' recommended compensation payment of £7,500

By Deborah McAleese

Victims of institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland have hit out at a "derisory" recommended compensation payment of £7,500.

The victims, who were abused in children's homes run by some churches, charities and state institutions, said the payment should be higher and should reflect the length of time spent in the institutions.

In January the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) recommended that victims should receive financial redress. Chairman of the inquiry Sir Anthony Hart said the payments should range from £7,500 to £100,000.

A 30-page response by victims has criticised the level of basic payment recommended.

"The response of survivors to the HIAI recommendation of a flat £7,500 common experience payment to all was that it fell short of expectations or was derisory," the response said.

The document, forwarded by victims to political parties on Monday for consideration, said an appropriate payment should start at £10,000 and be graduated according to the number of years spent in a residential institution.

It added: "This would acknowledge that the longer a child resided away from his or her family in an institution characterised by the HIAI and the courts as 'harsh and brutal', the greater harm the child would have suffered."

A panel of experts on redress, made up of victims, human rights organisations, academics and legal professionals, said the HIAI recommendations for compensation "fall short of survivors' needs".

"If implemented in its current form, the scheme could impede recognition, silence survivors' voices and fall short of fair and just compensation," the panel added.

The HIAI studied allegations of abuse in 22 homes and other residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.

These were facilities run by the state, local authorities, the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the children's charity Barnardo's.

The largest number of complaints related to four Catholic-run homes.

There was also sexual abuse carried out by priests and lay people.

Victims marched at Stormont to demand justice from warring politicians who have failed to deliver a promised apology and financial redress.

The group handed in letters to party leaders at Stormont Castle asking for the recommendations of a four-year inquiry into state and church abuse to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

A number of party representatives, including Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill, UUP leader Robin Swann and the Alliance Party's Chris Lyttle took time out from political talks to personally accept the letters from the group.

"Our hopes have been built up so many times and we feel so let down. We were vindicated by the inquiry and then the government collapsed," Margaret McGuckin, of the campaign group Survivors & Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA) said.

She added: "We want to say to the politicians 'let us have some form of a life'. We don't know if we have got tomorrow. Many of us are mentally and emotionally damaged.

"We are pleading with our government to get together and show they care. Let justice be done. Set up this redress scheme."

Jon McCourt, who suffered abuse while at St Joseph's Children's Home in Londonderry, said he wanted to ensure the issue of redress for victims is top of the agenda in the political talks.

"We now have frustration and a feeling from victims and survivors that they are being left behind. We want the leaders of the political parties to take on board our concerns," he added.

Patrick Corrigan, director of Amnesty International in Northern Ireland, said: "Victims of institutional child abuse have had to wait all their lives for justice. Now they are being asked to wait even longer because there is no government in place to act on the recommendations.

"We are calling for this issue to be prioritised and be part of the agenda of the talks and for delivery to follow when devolution returns."

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