Belfast Telegraph

Bradley urged to resign over delay in payout to the victims of child abuse

Members and supporters of the Redress For Victims group protest outside the Royal Garden Party at Castle Coole, Co Fermanagh, yesterday
Members and supporters of the Redress For Victims group protest outside the Royal Garden Party at Castle Coole, Co Fermanagh, yesterday
The Prince of Wales meets Secretary of State Karen Bradley
Margaret McGuckin of Redress For Victims
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The victims of institutional child abuse have called on the Secretary of State to resign after they picketed her royal garden party yesterday.

The protesters tried to peacefully enter the National Trust stately home in Co Fermanagh, where Karen Bradley entertained the Princes of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, but were refused.

A range of public figures, including DUP leader Arlene Foster, attended the event in Castle Coole on the outskirts of Enniskillen.

Standing outside with a banner, the victims voiced their anger that compensation still has not been paid to them two and a half years after it was recommended by a public inquiry.

Mrs Bradley has said a redress scheme could be up and running within six weeks if power-sharing returns and that it will take much longer to get legislation through Westminster.

But at a Stormont meeting on Monday, the victims accused her of using them as a political pawn to restore devolution. Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Bradley strongly denied that allegation and said finding a resolution for victims was "a personal priority for me as Secretary of State".

However, speaking last night, Margaret McGuckin of the Survivors And Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia) group said: "We simply don't believe Karen Bradley. She is now attempting to pass the buck for the delay to compensation by blaming the Civil Service. She has to go. To us, she seems devoid of all feeling and compassion.

"We held a very dignified protest at Castle Coole and received a warm reception. SDLP representatives joined us and local people brought us tea and scones afterwards."

Ms McGuckin said that Labour's shadow Northern Ireland minister Stephen Pound had stopped his car and got out to speak to the victims.

"He promised he would do all he could for us at Westminster. We need action as quickly as possible," she said.

"Many of our people are at death's door and many have already passed away. Thirty people have died in the two and a half years since the Hart Inquiry findings."

Victim Kate Walmsley said: "The only thing I want compensation for is to buy a grave. I want to buy a grave that I can be buried in next to my friend Margaret McGuckin.

"Her boys and my two boys, they would be able to meet each other and they would be able to look after our graves."

Green Party leader Claire Bailey also urged Mrs Bradley to resign: "Karen Bradley is doing a woeful job at pretending to be the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

"People are suffering, people are dying and others have lost any semblance of hope while waiting for redress. There is no justice, humanity or compassion in the actions of the Secretary of State.

"It is a national scandal. When Theresa May leaves office I'd like to see the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland go as well."

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey said: "The Secretary of State is placing every obstacle in the way of resolving the long running implementation of the Hart Report into historical institutional abuse.

"In addition to posing further questions to the local parties, she says that it would be a long legislative process here at Westminster. Rubbish." Sir Reg continued: "Both Houses of Parliament are twiddling their thumbs at the moment because of the Brexit crisis. The whips admit they 'are trying to invent business' to keep both chambers going. It's mostly random debates and little or no legislation.

"Karen Bradley had no difficulty in trying to force through the recent Northern Ireland (Regional Rates and Energy) (No 2) Bill. It completed all its stages in the Commons in one day.

"Whatever the reason, the victims are being victimised all over again. It's a national disgrace."

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson accused the Secretary of State of adding to the trauma and distress of victims.

"How anyone can do that, after meeting these people and listening to the horror of what they have been through is galling. Karen Bradley should hang her head in shame.

"Rather than getting on with implementing the Hart recommendations and putting in place the required legal and financial framework to assist victims and survivors, she continues to stall and to use victims as political pawns."

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