Belfast Telegraph

Hermon slams 'dithering' ministers as victims of abuse fobbed off again

Lady Hermon
Lady Hermon

By George Ryan

Ministers have been told to stop "dithering" after they ruled out fast-tracking legislation to provide compensation to historical abuse survivors in Northern Ireland before the summer recess.

Northern Ireland minister John Penrose said the draft Historical Abuse Bill needs to be dealt with carefully and is still being worked on.

Compensation was recommended in 2017 after an inquiry.

But the power-sharing Executive at Stormont collapsed just days after the inquiry report was published, stalling the plans for compensation.

In the face of DUP calls yesterday to introduce the legislation and approve it today before Westminster breaks for the summer, Mr Penrose said he expects the incoming administration to take it forward "at pace" - by the end of the year at the latest.

In the Commons, Independent MP Lady Hermon said: "I have to say quite clearly to the Government minister that the dithering, procrastination and the excuses around the delays in compensating the victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland have been absolutely shameful.

"The dithering must stop."

Asking an urgent question, DUP MP Ian Paisley had earlier said: "I do not doubt the sincerity of this minister of state, and the Secretary of State, or indeed the team they have in the Northern Ireland Office, but there can be no further delay.

"There is nothing to prevent this legislation being introduced this evening (Wednesday), being voted on tomorrow (Thursday) and this matter resolved before we go into recess. If the will is there, this can be done."

Mr Penrose replied: "This is an important issue that has not been properly debated yet in a legislature. It will need primary legislation in order to be taken through.

"It is something which is new and needs to be dealt with carefully. I'm afraid I therefore can't tell him that the Bill is ready to go today. It arrived with us a couple of days ago.

"It is being gone through in huge detail, there are all sorts of supporting documents and explanatory memorandums and so on which need to be put together. That is being done at pace, I can promise him that.

"It's something which will need to be taken forward by the incoming administration... but I don't think there's any shortage of goodwill, no shortage of energy and there's also no shortage of cross-party agreement to take this forward.

"I hope we will be able to introduce this legislation at pace, and at the very latest by the end of this year."

There has been controversy over delays in compensating abuse victims.

In May 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.

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