Belfast Telegraph

Chair of Northern Ireland abuse victims' group in plea to Smith for urgent meeting

Abuse victim Jon McCourt
Abuse victim Jon McCourt
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

An abuse victim who now chairs a support group has said he wants an urgent meeting with the new Secretary of State.

Jon McCourt from Survivors North West wants movement on the issue of compensation for victims.

He wants to make the case for action directly to Julian Smith, who took over as Northern Ireland Secretary last week.

Mr McCourt said his organisation decided against taking part in a protest at Mr Smith's visit to Derry last Friday, when members of the Bloody Sunday families and Irish Language activists gathered at the Guildhall.

He said he wanted to address the issue of compensation for victims of institutional abuse face-to-face.

Mr McCourt said: "I have actually requested a meeting with Julian Smith and have been told by his diary secretary he will get back to us.

"I understand the value of public protest, but I want to be sitting at a table and looking into the Secretary of State's eyes when I am asking him to address the issue of historical institutional abuse and to see his response.

Secretary of State Julian Smith
Secretary of State Julian Smith

"This issue, I have no doubt, is already on his table, I would find it incredible if it wasn't."

There has been controversy over delays in compensating abuse victims.

The compensation was recommended in 2017 after a long-running inquiry headed by the late Sir Anthony Hart.

But the power-sharing Executive at Stormont collapsed soon after the inquiry report was published, stalling the plans.

In May, then-Secretary of State Karen Bradley said she could not take the matter through Parliament.

She later held talks with the Stormont political parties to reach agreement on issues relating to the proposed legislation, which was then redrafted, with changes regarding the level of basic payments victims should receive.

Mr McCourt added: "Karen Bradley had 19 months to deal with this.

"Both Karen Bradley and her predecessor James Brokenshire could have addressed compensation for victims of historical institution abuse but chose not to.

"The legalisation is already there, if the legalisation had been tabled by Karen Bradley as an amendment to the Executive Formation Bill, this would have been accepted in the House of Commons - I have no doubt of that.

"What that would have allowed was the start of the drawing up of regulations and rules that would have started the implementation process for the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress scheme."

Mr McCourt said the failure to do this would mean more waiting for victims.

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