Belfast Telegraph

Nigel Dodds calls for Secretary of State to 'get on with' HIA legislation

Nigel Dodds speaking in the Commons
Nigel Dodds speaking in the Commons

By Eimear McGovern

DUP MP Nigel Dodds has urged the Secretary of State to 'get on with it' when it comes to providing legislation to compensate victims of historical institutional abuse.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Dodds said those affected in Northern Ireland feel angry that the calling of an election on December 12 threatens the publication of a new bill that would compensate victims.

"The victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland today feel very very frustrated and angry at the fact that the calling of this election, the bill which was designed to address this issue and provide compensation is now not going to proceed.

"Can the Secretary of State indicate even at this late stage that that will be allowed to proceed," he said.

In response, NIO minister Robin Walker said Mr Dodds was right to draw attention to the issue.

"Time is of the essence when it comes to historical institutional abuse and we will do all we can to see its passage before the general election. My Secretary of State has made that clear," he said.

"No decision had been made on this bill before the dissolution of parliament and we will do everything we can to take it forward," he said.

Mr Dodds said: "I must press the minister on this because we only have literally a few days and hours left

"Surely he can give a more definitive explanation and a definitive commitment that on this issue, he will step forward. There is cross party support in this House, cross party-support in Northern Ireland - please get on with it."

Mr Walker said the Secretary of State Julian Smith has appointed staff to work on the scheme in case it becomes law. "These preparations will continue and we will provide whatever support is needed to provide Northern Ireland's Civil Service to ensure victims are paid as quickly as possible and we will work with the usual channels to see what we can do."

It comes after the House of Lords debated a bill on Monday to set up a redress board which would administer a compensation scheme and would aim to create a statutory commissioner to advocate for survivors of abuse.

Peers called for new laws to be rushed through Parliament before it would be dissolved for a possible election.

Northern Ireland Office minister Lord Duncan of Springbank said the victims of historical abuse had been "left hanging" for too long.

Sinn Féin victims and legacy spokesperson Linda Dillon urged the Government to clarify what impact the upcoming election will have on victims and survivors.

“The victims need some reassurance about what will happen now an election has been called," said Ms Dillon.

“The victims are absolutely distraught at the prospect there might be any delays on getting legislation implemented and redress for victims resolved. These victims and survivors many of whom are in poor health both physically and mentally cannot be the collateral damage in a chaotic Parliament.

 “Their hopes have been dashed on so many occasions and we all thought they were finally going to be able to get long-awaited redress for the terrible abuses they suffered at the hands of state and religious institutions," she said

“Clarification is needed urgently on this to ensure victims receive the redress they are long entitled to.”

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