Stop dithering and give child abuse victims proper redress, expert urges MLAs
Stormont must start planning a "redress scheme" for victims of child sex abuse - including those preyed on by paedophile priests such as Fr Brendan Smyth and others assaulted in Kincora Boys' Home, an international expert has warned.
In Australia and Canada, ex-gratia payments are being made to survivors of child abuse who are now adults.
In Canada it is £28,500 and in Australia it is an average of £14,400.
Criminology professor Dr Kathleen Daly said it was high time politicians started talking seriously about a redress scheme.
"These are considerable sums and victims and survivors are getting older - so we need to start talking now," she said.
"They need to move forward on it. It seems to me that there is a lack of political will to really step up to the plate at this time."
Dr Daly believes Northern Ireland can learn from the ongoing Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This is the most ambitious abuse inquiry ever held, perhaps the most ambitious public inquiry of any kind.
It is looking at an estimated 65,000 individuals who may be eligible for redress - cash compensation and lifelong counselling.
Of these, 7,000 are child migrants from the UK, including Northern Ireland, who were sent to Australia by the authorities.
Unlike our own institutional abuse inquiry in Banbridge, the Australian Commission examines abuse outside institutions. This could be relevant here because Kincora residents have claimed they were sent to meet men to be abused in their homes or hotels.
Dr Daly came to Northern Ireland at the request of Prof Patricia Lundy, a sociologist at the Ulster University. She has also met victims and survivors' groups, as well as the members of the Hart Inquiry into institutional abuse in Northern Ireland.
Her criticism of our politicians will sting MLAs, who have been vocal in support of abuse victims. Dr Daly intends to return to Northern Ireland to assist SAVIA and other survivors' organisations.
"I am calling attention to what needs to be done to create an effective redress scheme," she said. "As a first step I am calling for a wide-ranging, robust discussion of what is desirable, feasible and practical, as well as right and just."
In the Republic, two systems of cash payment were used.
Dr Daly said that women, generally single parents, who worked for nuns in Magdalen laundries were compensated "based more on the years in an institution, the amount of work which the young women did and a kind of top-up on a pension with ongoing social support and health benefits".
The other was a simple cash payment.
In Australia, where Churches are involved, they pay 55% and the State steps in with 45%.
Northern Ireland's historical abuse inquiry goes back to the foundation of the State in 1922, and for most of that time there was a Government at Stormont running things.
However, most of the Kincora abuse took place during direct rule, so Westminster might be considered responsible, especially in light of claims that the problem was covered up or even exploited by MI5.
Dr Kathleen Daly is professor of criminology at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Originally from the United States, Dr Daly used to teach at Yale University. She has been in Australia since 1995 and is author of Redressing Institutional Abuse of Children, a highly respected study.
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