Belfast Telegraph

Historical abuse survivors must wait until autumn for payments ruling: advocate

Secretary of State Karen Bradley
Secretary of State Karen Bradley
Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chairman, MP Simon Hoare
Victims’ advocate Brendan McAllister

By Annamay McNally

Survivors of historical institutional abuse will probably have to wait until at least the autumn before legislation to compensate them is brought before Parliament, according to Northern Ireland's new victims' advocate.

Brendan McAllister, who was appointed in an interim capacity, but is not due to officially take up his post until August 12, was speaking on BBC News Northern Ireland's Sunday News programme.

Payments to victims were recommended by the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry in 2017 but the process stalled when devolution collapsed.

Conservative MP Simon Hoare, who is chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster, met victims on Friday.

He said he wants the issue "sorted" but admitted it may be months before it gets to MPs.

Mr Hoare told the BBC he has pressed for the issue to be scheduled for the first two weeks of September.

"There isn't a preciousness to which side of the Irish Sea resolves this - is it going to be Westminster or Belfast? - it just needs to be sorted," he said.

The wide-ranging Hart Inquiry recommended an apology, memorial and compensation to those victims of historical abuse in 2017.

It examined allegations of abuse and mistreatment at 22 homes and other residential institutions between 1922 and 1995 at children's homes run by some churches, charities and state institutions.

Campaigners have been calling for the Government to act in the absence of a Stormont Executive, saying survivors are dying while they wait for action.

"We are dealing with vulnerable people who are needing to find the building blocks to deliver closure - and it is slightly cat and mouse to be delaying this any longer than it need to be," said Mr Hoare.

One of the groups Mr Hoare met on Friday has said it is disappointed at the prospect of a further delay.

Margaret McGuckin from Savia said Mr Hoare told them that redress legislation, the final draft of which is being sent to Secretary of State Karen Bradley this week, is not expected to go before Parliament before it rises for the summer on July 25. Ms McGuckin said she was hurt and disappointed by the news.

"He said there was a window in the first two weeks of September," she said.

"Does he not know that a day for us is like a year?

"We had impressed upon him that this is a matter of urgency."

Ms McGuckin said the group had hoped that MPs would want to act quickly following the sudden death of the chair of the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry, Sir Anthony Hart.

Sir Anthony died last Tuesday, aged 73, after suffering a heart attack.

"We thought in light of Sir Anthony's passing that something would be done quickly," said Ms McGuckin.

"Come September, what will happen then?

"Will there be more stalling over more holidays?

"It's never-ending.

"We need a plan B."

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