Belfast Telegraph

Bradley must rethink stance on abuse inquiry recommendations: Nesbitt

By Rebecca Black

The Secretary of State has been accused of "cruelty" by her refusal to implement recommendations from the inquiry into historic child abuse.

Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt made the claim yesterday after it emerged Eddie McCann, a victim of historical institutional abuse, has died.

Karen Bradley told the House of Commons yesterday that it would be "constitutionally inappropriate" for Parliament to enact the Hart Report recommendations because the inquiry had been established by the Northern Ireland Executive.

The recommendations include compensation, a memorial and a public apology to survivors of abuse.

The NI Secretary was tackled in the House by the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith, who pointed out other matters that she had intervened in. He said: "I'm afraid she cannot have her cake and eat it. She cannot argue that on the one hand it would be undermining of the devolution settlement to intervene and legislate in areas of devolved competence, for example the HIA or the pensions for the severely disabled.

"And on the other hand, do so, because she is doing precisely that today, in respect of the RHI scheme, which was introduced in the Assembly, by the Assembly, for Northern Ireland. Or in respect of the regional rates, which is an area to do with local government entirely devolved to the Assembly in Belfast."

Mr Smith revealed he had commissioned the House of Commons Library and independent legal advice to assess what difference there was constitutionally in the two areas being considered by MPs, compared to the Hart inquiry and pensions for those injured during the Troubles.

It said there was "no constitutional reason" why the Secretary of State could not legislate on HIA or victims pensions, said Mr Smith. Legal counsel, meanwhile, supported the UK government intervening in the HIA, based on the fact it was just a convention not to do so, there was a constitutional obligation to avoid a vacuum in governance, and the HIA inquiry had made a clear case for intervention.

Mrs Bradley responded: "The HIA, the Hart inquiry, was set up by the Executive and therefore constitutionally it is a matter for the members of the Executive to make a decision about the recommendations in the Hart inquiry.

"The Hart inquiry reported to the Executive after it had collapsed, and therefore they were unable to do so. That therefore gives a legal difficulty in terms of what would the Executive have decided with regards to the recommendations for this Parliament to try to second guess."

She added the government was clear it wanted to set up the institutions agreed under the Stormont House Agreement and will consult on how that was done, given victims had been waiting for too long.

Mr Nesbitt last night challenged Mrs Bradley over her position.

"Within an hour of the original release of this statement, I was informed of the passing of Eddie McCann, whom I met the day Sir Anthony Hart published his report. Eddie never had a passport or enjoyed a holiday," he said.

"Like so many survivors, he was denied the sort of life opportunities in education, employment and social inclusion the rest of us take for granted.

"To give survivors a public inquiry which then makes a series of recommendations that no one is prepared to deliver is cruel and perverse. I urge the Secretary of State to rethink."

Belfast Telegraph

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