Belfast Telegraph

Historical abuse compensation bill welcome but long overdue, says UUP's Lord Empey

Veteran unionist Lord Empey
Veteran unionist Lord Empey

By Eimear McGovern

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey welcomed the passage of a bill to compensate victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland through the House of Commons saying it was "long overdue".

He said the fast-tracking of the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill would not have happened without the support of members of both Houses of Parliament.

The bill was approved in the Commons on Tuesday having previously been supported by Lords. It should become one of the last pieces of legislation to be passed before the dissolution of parliament.

"I pay tribute to the steadfastness of the campaigners who have shown great resilience in the face of adversity," said Lord Empey.

“The hard work begins again when the details of the scheme are worked out, but today is still a good day for the victims of this abuse, albeit one they have regrettably been forced to wait a very long time for." 

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said victims and survivors have had to wait too long for their pain to be acknowledged.

"Their powerful testimony of horrific experiences of physical, mental and emotional abuse over the course of decades during the HIA inquiry has moved political mountains.

"I am glad that Westminster has acted today where others did not. Victims and survivors have been forced to fight for this acknowledgment every step of the way.

"It should not have been so hard, even up to this moment. Our Assembly should have offered them more hope."

The DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly said she was "angry" it has taken so long for victims and survivors to get the redress that they deserved.

The South Belfast MP said: "I think it is such a good thing that we end this Parliament on this type of issue, where the very many hundreds and thousands of those who suffered appalling abuse, which the Secretary of State has outlined, finally get the last piece of this process which is redress.

"Redress won't be closure. Redress will never undo the dreadful wrongs that happened to all of those children in those settings."

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said around 5,000 people could be eligible for compensation through the redress scheme the new law would establish.

The Bill establishes a Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board to administer a publicly funded compensation scheme for victims in Northern Ireland and also allows for a commissioner for survivors of institutional childhood abuse to be appointed.

Mr Smith said: "It is the first Bill of its kind in the United Kingdom with the results of inquiries in England and Wales and Scotland yet to be completed.

"I hope that this Bill will give some comfort and hope to victims of child abuse from across our country."

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