Belfast Telegraph

Bradley urged to introduce legislation to compensate victims before summer break

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley (Niall Carson/PA)
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley (Niall Carson/PA)

The Northern Ireland Secretary has been urged to introduce legislation to secure compensation for survivors of institutional abuse to Parliament before the summer recess.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee was told Karen Bradley will receive the final draft of the legislation next week.

Patricia Lundy, professor of sociology at Ulster University, said survivors believe the legislation should be introduced at Westminster before it rises for the summer on July 25.

She told the committee: "There's no reason why that cannot happen. If it cannot happen, I think it would be important it is explained to survivors why that cannot happen, I think it is absolutely crucial that it is."

It is more than two years since the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry exposed serious sexual, physical and emotional abuse over decades at children's homes run by religious orders, charities and the state.

It recommended compensation payments to victims and survivors, but the process stalled due to the impasse at Stormont.

The inquiry, headed by Sir Anthony Hart, also said a victims' advocate with statutory powers should be appointed.

Brendan McAllister has been appointed as interim victims' advocate but is not due to formally take up his post until August 12.

Jon McCourt, chairman of Survivors North West, told the committee some victims have been waiting 70 years for acknowledgement.

He said: "It's our hope and our wish that this Parliament sees it appropriate to carry forward the legislation for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.

Jon McCourt (Liam McBurney/PA)
Jon McCourt (Liam McBurney/PA)

"While we are talking about waiting two years, one of our friends has waited over 70 years, just think about that, over 70 years for someone to hear a voice and say what can we do to put this right.

"I think the opportunity is here before this Parliament, this House, this committee, to put this right and address this issue once and for all to the satisfaction of victims and survivors, and certainly as a tribute to the work that Sir Anthony Hart did while he carried out the inquiry.

"If there was a will to do this, it could be done."

Earlier at the committee, tributes were paid to Sir Anthony who died on Tuesday aged 73 after suffering a heart attack.

Committee chairman Simon Hoare invited those present to stand for a minute at the start of the meeting in memory of Sir Anthony.

Mr McCourt started his opening statement to the committee with a tribute.

He said: "First of all, we would like to pay tribute to Sir Anthony Hart, it's regrettable he won't be here to see the rolling out of the result of the inquiry.

"When we first met Sir Anthony Hart I was worried about who this guy was. We got to know him very quickly, a man of integrity, a man of honesty, a man of honour and a very, very humble man who efficiently and effectively ran an inquiry for 18 months and heard people speak, and encouraged people to speak who never had a voice.

"For that we are deeply indebted, he will be sadly missed and on behalf of us, we'd like to extend our sympathy to his family and his colleagues."

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