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We are ashamed of our government, say abuse survivors who have been waiting 17 months for compensation

By Staff Reporter

Historical abuse survivors have accused Northern Ireland's politicians of putting their own needs before victims as they continue to wait for financial payments promised 17 months ago.

Victims have warned that many have been left feeling suicidal or facing financial ruin as the current Stormont impasse means that the findings and recommendations of a four-year inquiry into state and church abuse have still not been presented to the Assembly.

The report, which was published just days before Stormont collapsed in January, promised victims state-backed compensation payments of up to £100,000. Victims and government bodies were advised in November 2015 that the report would be recommending financial redress.

However, the failure to form a powersharing government has meant the inquiry's recommendations have not been implemented.

"We are ashamed of our government for not getting itself together and not looking after the most vulnerable in society," said Margaret McGuckin, of the campaign group Survivors & Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA).

"Many of our people are just going to pass away before this is addressed, or just give up. Many are in a suicidal state. Many have been left in debt buying things on credit on the understanding they were to be compensated.

"We are trying to lift each other up. We built up their hopes with this inquiry and now they are just shattered."

Secretary of State James Brokenshire recently admitted in a letter to DUP MLA Alex Easton that the implementation of the recommendations was not likely to be imminent.

He said that as the report was commissioned by Stormont's First and Deputy First Ministers in 2012, they were obliged to lay the report in the Assembly.

"Given the current political situation in Northern Ireland, this is not likely to be imminently possible", he admitted.

However, he added: "Please be assured of my recognition of the significance of the report's findings and the need for recommendations to be acted upon."

Ms McGuckin, who was abused as a child while in the care of the Sisters of Nazareth at their Belfast children's home Nazareth Lodge, said: "Maybe our politicians should think about other people, rather than themselves.

"Too many people now have passed away. Many others have just given up hope and wishing they had never talked about it. This is a blistering sore that is never going to heal."

Kate Walmsley (60), who was abused while in the care of the Catholic Church from the age of two to 15, said she had hoped the compensation would pay for her funeral.

"Now I'm getting older, I have started to worry that if my children have to bury me, I haven't a penny to leave them to bury me. I don't want that", she said.

"The politicians, they don't realise how much more they are hurting us. I wish I hadn't opened up. That's the way they leave you, wishing you had just taken it to your grave."

Alan Phillips (44), who was abused while in the state-run Rathgael training school, said: "Have we just wasted our time? I feel like the door has been shut on us again.

"I have five young children. I wanted to set something up into their bank accounts for their future. I have given up on my own future. It is for them."

In January, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry led by Sir Anthony Hart, outlined a series of recommendations after shocking levels of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at church and state-run institutions in the period from 1922 to 1995 were revealed.

Sir Anthony said the minimum payout should be £7,500 with the maximum amount given to those who had experienced severe levels of abuse as well as being transported to Australia in a controversial migrant scheme.

He said the organisations that ran the abusing homes should make a financial contribution to the Executive-run scheme.

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