Belfast Telegraph

Call for Bradley to quit over 'shameful' delay to abuse compensation scheme

Victims accuse government of using them as 'blackmail'

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley (Brian Lawless/PA)
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley (Brian Lawless/PA)
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

There have been calls for Northern Ireland Secretary of State to resign after she further delayed a compensation scheme for victims of historical institutional abuse.

On Tuesday night Karen Bradley wrote to victims' groups informing them political parties would be invited to consider the issue as part of negotiations to restore devolved institutions.

Groups of those representing survivors of abuse described the move as "shameful" saying they felt they were being used as "blackmail" to get devolved government back up and running.

It comes after the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, David Sterling, who is in effect running Northern Ireland in the ongoing absence of government asked Mrs Bradley to progress the necessary legislative reform through Westminster after completing a consultation process last week.

In response her department said it would act to release compensation "as soon as possible".

Margaret McGuckian of pressure group SAVIA said it was time for Karen Bradley to resign. She has campaigned for 11 years for the redress scheme to be implemented.

"It has just been more excuses," she told the BBC Stephen Nolan show.

She said those who had been abused were being used for political means to try and forge agreement in the Northern Ireland talks.

"I'm heartbroken, I couldn't speak. Our hopes were up when the consultation analysis was finished and delivered to the door of Karen Bradley," she added.

"And for her to pass it back saying she can't deliver it.. what can she do? She is supposed to be the secretary of state, the only government we have here."

A redress scheme, in which victims would have been paid between £7,500 and £100,000, was one of the recommendations of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) in 2017. Its proposals have never been implemented due to the Stormont impasse and Mrs Bradley has been under mounting pressure to introduce the scheme via Westminster.

One Belfast man who contacted the Belfast Telegraph and who spent years at a institution said the money had become a distraction.

"Where are the prosecutions?" he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"For me money will not make me happy. My best friend died in one of those homes, I will never forget it. But for me I want to see convictions. They should be able to fill a prison, but that seems to have been forgotten about."

Karen Bradley has written to David Sterling asking him to include the redress scheme on the agenda of one of several cross-party working groups set up as part of the latest talks process.

In her letter to victims, Mrs Bradley said: "The current talks are the best opportunity for these complex issues - such as the total redress payment - to be discussed by local politicians.

"I have therefore written to David Sterling today to ask that he invite the parties to consider these issues under the Programme for Government strand of the talks and identify where there is consensus on the outstanding issues."

Jon McCourt, of the Survivors North West group, said he suspected this could happen. He said doing nothing was not an option.

"I am ashamed Karen Bradley has the brass neck to call herself secretary of state," he said.

"Without a doubt victims and survivors are being used as leverage.. we are a blackmail tool for the secretary of state to use."

Pointing to plans to amend drinking laws for The Open golf championship, he said the redress scheme should be a priority, adding: "We are seeking an urgent meeting with SoS Karen Bradley, David Sterling and with the leaders of the main political parties at Stormont to make it clear that in our view, the window of opportunity at Stormont has closed and that responsibility for delivery on the amended recommendations to the (Hart) Historical Institutional Abuse Report is long overdue and is the responsibility of the Secretary Of State for Northern Ireland to deliver through the Westminster Parliament."

A UK Government spokesman said they believed the talks process was the best process to get agreement on the matter which was time limited to the end of May.

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