Belfast Telegraph

Karen Bradley: It’s a personal priority to do all in my power to get justice for these survivors

Karen Bradley has been criticised (Liam McBurney/PA)
Karen Bradley has been criticised (Liam McBurney/PA)

By Karen Bradley

The victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse have suffered unimaginable and prolonged pain for decades.

I have spoken to those affected in person on numerous occasions and I am acutely aware of the agony they have endured and the impact on their daily lives.

My heart breaks at the trauma endured by victims and survivors. It is one of the most harrowing issues I have ever experienced as a politician. That is why I am absolutely determined to find a solution as quickly as possible after years of false starts.

The Hart Report is now over two years old and this issue has been a devastating casualty of the impasse at Stormont, following years of campaigning by victims and their representatives.

This is a personal priority for me as Secretary of State.

Let me be clear, I will do everything in my power to ensure that the victims and survivors get the redress, justice and opportunity to heal as soon as possible.

That is why I raised the urgent need to make progress with the political leaders last week and encouraged them to work with me so that we can ensure there are no more delays.

I do not want this urgent issue to be delayed or stalled as part of the talks process. Quite the opposite.

More, the talks process - specifically the Programme for Government Group chaired by David Sterling - provides a real opportunity to secure agreement from the parties on the outstanding issues.

The Executive Office identified key issues that require ministerial decisions, and I felt it was only right and fair that local politicians had the opportunity to answer them with the utmost urgency.

The questions that need answers, apart from the amount of compensation to be paid, include things like the power of the commissioner, the composition of the judge-led redress panel, and whether there should be a bar on victims applying for redress through the scheme when compensation has already been awarded in the courts. These are not easy questions and it is so important we get them right now and avoid any further delay.

I am pleased that the NI political leaders engaged so constructively and have made progress addressing some of the outstanding issues that have been raised in the consultation.

If we are to make genuine progress then I need people to support and work with me as constructively as possible.

That is why I have been meeting the victims' and survivors' groups, to ensure they feel they are included every step of the way. I will continue to do this in the days and weeks ahead. I am also working closely with Sir Anthony Hart.

Be in no doubt that I am listening and engaging with all the groups and I hear their pain and frustration.

The experience of recent meetings has made me even more determined to deliver.

In parallel, I am also working with my colleagues in Westminster to find the best way forward. I am clear that I will pursue the quickest route possible and if this means passing legislation in Westminster, then this is what I will strive to deliver.

It is important to be clear that the process of delivering primary legislation in Westminster requires cross-government support and agreement to proceed. It will also take time to scrutinise the legislation and receive Royal Assent.

This is why I have been working quickly to resolve the outstanding questions and issues so that we are as prepared as possible to act swiftly and decisively through the quickest route possible - whether Westminster or a restored Assembly.

I share the deep frustration that this hasn't been resolved yet, but please be reassured, my personal priority is to find the route to the quickest conclusion possible.

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