Belfast Telegraph

Historical abuse survivors want meeting over impact of PM's move to suspend parliament

Letter: Brendan McAllister
Letter: Brendan McAllister
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Survivors of historical and institutional abuse have requested a meeting with the Secretary of State over Boris Johnson's move to suspend Parliament.

The interim advocate for the victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse Brendan McAllister, wishes to meet Julian Smith to discuss any possible implications the situation could have on survivors' compensation.

The Queen approved the Prime Minister's order for Parliament to be prorogued from the second week in September until October 14 - just 17 days before the Brexit deadline.

Mr Smith met with two victims groups last week and said he believed legislation to secure them compensation could be passed as early as next month.

Following the meeting, the survivors said they were "hopeful for the first time" but the dramatic events at Westminster over the past few days have raised fears that nothing will be done.

Writing to Mr Smith yesterday, Mr McAllister said that the intended five-week prorogation has caused a "dramatic reversal" of the very positive expectations that his meeting with survivors had raised.

"Furthermore, you will be aware that these developments will have a very direct emotional impact on vulnerable people whose childhood traumas have been dangerously exposed and neglected for too long," he continued.

"On their behalf, I would like to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss your intended course of action in this politically fluid situation.

"I must reiterate that your initial engagement with victims and survivors of historical abuse was very positive and a lot now rests on your capacity to maintain a momentum of progress and confirm early hopes that you will be the Secretary of State whose actions will speak louder than his words."

Following the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, a report from Sir Anthony Hart in 2017 found there had been widespread and systemic abuse in children's homes across Northern Ireland.

He made a series of recommendations including compensation, a permanent memorial and a public apology. The suggested compensation level was set between £7,500 to £100,000 but the collapse of Stormont shortly afterwards prevented further progress.

Dozens of those affected have now died without receiving any compensation. Campaigners had accused the last Secretary of State Karen Bradley of stalling tactics over the legislation and called for her to resign.

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