Belfast Telegraph

Child abuse victims make emotional appeal to Arlene Foster over right to compensation

Abuse survivor Margaret McGuckin on the steps of Stormont at the launch of the ‘A Compensation Framework for Historic Abuses in Residential Institutions’ document
Abuse survivor Margaret McGuckin on the steps of Stormont at the launch of the ‘A Compensation Framework for Historic Abuses in Residential Institutions’ document
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Victims of historical child abuse plan to hold a picket at Stormont if the new Executive doesn't move imminently to pay them compensation.

They are making an emotional appeal directly to First Minister Arlene Foster "as a woman and a mother" to take action to end their trauma.

The DUP is refusing to address the compensation issue until the inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) sends its report to the Executive next year.

The victims have bought baby and young children's clothes and plan to stand outside Parliament Buildings holding up the items.

Margaret McGuckin of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA) said they were "sick of hearing empty, well-meaning words" from politicians and wanted compensation for what they had suffered.

"We have bought items of clothing - little shoes, bonnets, dresses and trousers - to symbolise how young and defenceless we were when we were placed in care," she said.

"Our innocence was taken from us in those homes. We were robbed of our childhood. We suffered sexual and physical abuse and cruelty beyond belief.

"There are now plenty of female MLAs at Stormont. Many of these women, including Arlene Foster, are mothers. We are asking them to look at their own children and imagine what it would be like if their kids were put through the horrors that we were."

Ms McGuckin said that compensation for victims must be included in the Programme for Government which the new Executive, elected tomorrow, will draw up. She said that Sinn Fein had already agreed but the DUP had not.

DUP voter Cyril Glass, who was abused in Rathgael Training School, last month wrote to Mrs Foster begging for action on compensation, but he described the party's response as "extremely disappointing".

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I haven't even had the courtesy of a reply. The DUP is the only one of the main parties not supporting interim payments for victims."

A party spokesman said: "The DUP was central in establishing the inquiry into historical institutional abuse. We have supported it at every turn and continue to support victims. At the time the inquiry was established we said we would consider the report in full when the work was completed and would then decide on a way forward. We recognise the deeply sensitive nature of this issue, but believe this is the correct way to proceed."

Ms McGuckin is requesting an urgent meeting with the First and Deputy First Ministers. Appealing to Mrs Foster to change her party's position, she said: "In a Belfast Telegraph article recently, Arlene spoke movingly of the parable of the Good Samaritan and the need to help the less fortunate.

"As someone who shares the DUP leader's deep Christian faith, I'm asking her to be a Good Samaritan to us, to reach out and help those whose lives have been broken." Victims have presented the model scheme which they want the Executive to adopt. It comprises of a common experience payment for all former residents of homes where abuse was endemic.

This would include a base payment of £10,000 plus an additional £3,000 for each year they were in the institution. There would also be individually tested payments where a claimant's particular abuse would be assessed.

The HIA inquiry is due to report to the Executive next January but its chairman, Sir Anthony Hart, has already said he will be recommending compensation.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International urged the new Executive to start arranging the common experience payment immediately.

"There is no need to wait another seven months for Sir Anthony Hart to send his report to Stormont. The time to plan and budget for the scheme is now, when the Programme for Government is being agreed."

Ms McGuckin said that victims were sick of having to fight for everything.

"We have to tell our stories in public, to constantly expose ourselves, in order to be heard. That isn't right," she said.

"Millions and millions of pounds has been spent on the Hart inquiry but we are kept waiting for a minimal payment. Money won't make up for the damage done to us but it would be an acknowledgement of our trauma. Time isn't something that many victims have. We are talking about people who are often struggling to just get through the day, who are mentally ill - or are in the grips of addiction - because of what they endured.

"I have many good friends who haven't survived. Cyril Glass's twin brother, who was also abused, is one of those who hasn't lived to see justice. We can't wait any longer."

Belfast Telegraph


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