Victims and survivors of institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland care homes have said plans to help them are “gathering dust” on Stormont’s shelves while those affected are “still denied justice to their death beds”.
In an open letter signed by 260 victims and survivors, the group spoke of their deep frustration that six months after the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry’s findings were published, no action was being taken.
In its report published in January, the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry recommended that the Stormont Executive “create a publicly funded compensation scheme”. The Executive was already well on its way to collapsing at this point, and ministerial decisions on compensation are still on hold.
The letter from the victims reads: “We welcomed its main findings — that the State was responsible for widespread and systemic failings, which left us, as vulnerable children, to suffer physical, sexual and mental abuse in supposed ‘care’ homes.
“But six months in, with no devolved government ministers in position to act on the report, its recommendations for apologies, a redress scheme and support services for victims, have gathered dust on Stormont’s shelves.
“In that time, the health of many of us and our friends in the victim and survivor groups has deteriorated. Some have sadly passed away, still denied justice to their death beds.”
The group said they believed they were the “collateral damage of political failure”, adding they were “betrayed by government when we were children. Betrayed again in our final years.”
They also welcomed last month’s public intervention by Sir Anthony Hart, the former chair of the Inquiry, who wrote to party leaders at Stormont urging them to take action on his recommendations.
He said the delay was adding to the heavy burden already felt by abuse victims, many of whom are in poor health.
He has previously said that payments to victims should range from £7,500 to £100,000 each.
The letter continued: “We agree with Sir Anthony Hart that if an Executive is not formed, the local parties should ‘publicly call upon the secretary of state’ to take action.
“Further, the UK Government must live up to its responsibilities in helping to finance the necessary redress scheme.
“The pain suffered by victims and survivors in retelling their experiences for the Inquiry cannot now be met by silence and inaction.”
The HIA Inquiry 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.