Belfast Telegraph

Brokenshire told to issue immediate payments to victims of historical institutional abuse

'Political obscenity' nothing has been done, says former victims commissioner

By Jonathan Bell

UUP MLA and former victims commissioner Mike Nesbitt has called on Secretary of State James Brokenshire to immediately issue payments to victims of historical institutional abuse.

In his extensive report published in January, Sir Anthony Hart recommended compensation payments ranging from £7,500 up to £100,000 for those victims and survivors.

There have been repeated calls for interim payments to be made, as well as for the report's other recommendations which included an apology, a memorial, assistance and the establishment of a commissioner to be implemented. However, the current political limbo in Northern Ireland has prevented any movement on the matter.

Strangford MLA Nesbitt has called on the Secretary of State to intervene descibing the state's failure to act a "political obscenity".

However, in a letter seen by the Belfast Telegraph from Mr Brokenshire,  he has resisted acting saying he will not interfere in devolved matters or set new policy directions.

Mike Nesbitt has challenged the secretary of state to find one of Northern Ireland's 90 MLAs who would disagree with interim payments being made.

"An interim payment does not represent the setting of a new policy direction," he said.

"The inquiry made clear a future Executive should discuss and agree the exact nature of redress. An interim payment can be progressed without any future Executive agreement on this matter."

Mr Nesbitt has told the secretary of state he could make payments in the knowledge "it was the right thing to do politically and morally".

He added: "Victims and survivors were placed in the care of the state and its agents at a very young age and through no fault of their own they were cruelly abused by those charged with protecting them and nurturing them.

"They carry the scars of that abuse with them to the grave. Sadly, many have already completed that journey. For the remaining survivors to be told the state is not prepared to act at the far end of their lives is a political obscenity."

Secretary of State James Brokenshire was asked for comment.

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