Sinn Fein supports interim redress payments to victims of institutional abuse
Sinn Fein has backed a call for interim compensation payouts to institutional abuse victims before a long-running inquiry into the crimes is completed.
However, the request for early payments has not yet been endorsed by the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), indicating Sinn Fein and the DUP have not reached a joint position on the issue.
Charity Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia) has warned that many former residents of institutions where abuse was committed are now old and cannot wait until the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) finishes hearing evidence and produces an official report to Stormont.
Sinn Fein's Jennifer McCann, who is an OFMDFM junior minister, said: "Sinn Fein supports some form of interim redress or acknowledgement payment, as has happened in other jurisdictions, given the age profile of some of the victims of the Historical Abuse Inquiry."
Neither OFMDFM or the DUP have issued statements in response to requests to comment on Thursday's call from Savia.
Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart is leading the HIA probe, one of the UK's largest inquiries into physical, sexual and emotional harm to children at homes run by the church, state and voluntary organisations.
The inquiry was formally established in January 2013 by the Northern Ireland Executive to investigate child abuse which occurred in residential institutions over a 73-year period from 1922 to 1995.
However, its investigative work is not scheduled to finish until next summer, with a report due to be submitted to Stormont ministers the following year. This issue of whether victims should receive financial compensation will be addressed in the final report.
The HIA, which sits at Banbridge courthouse in Co Down, is in the middle of its seventh module of work, which is focusing on allegations of historical child abuse at juvenile justice institutions.
Savia campaigner Margaret McGuckin said on Thursday: "We stand together, united as one in asking our government to make an immediate commitment in agreeing to the setting up of proposals to begin the start of an interim redress scheme for those children, now adults, who were put into the care of church and state-run institutions.
"No more can this government or those who were in charge of abuse victims at the time deny that these abuses happened. Without pre-empting the findings of this inquiry, the evidence that has come out through this HIA inquiry is already, up to now, damning. Abuse, whether it be sexual, physical, emotional or sheer neglect, did occur."
She added: "Time is something many of our people do not have."