Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland abuse victims cautiously optimistic as deal agreed

Hopeful: Margaret McGuckin
Hopeful: Margaret McGuckin
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Victims of institutional child abuse believe they are closer than ever to securing compensation after local parties and the Civil Service reached agreement on changes to draft legislation.

A letter signed by the party leaders will be sent to Secretary of State Karen Bradley tomorrow. It confirms their support for the matter being dealt with by Westminster.

Margaret McGuckin, from victims' campaign group Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse, said: "We are nearer to securing compensation than we have ever been, but we certainly aren't jumping for joy.

"This should have been sorted out not weeks or months ago, but years ago. It is a move in the right direction, but we're not there yet. We couldn't bear to be let down again.

"We will be in touch with the chief whips of all the parties at Westminster to ensure that the legislation passes as smoothly and swiftly as possible."

Ms McGuckin also called on the DUP to "use its clout" with the Government to assist victims.

A Government spokesperson said last night: "The Secretary of State welcomes the progress made by the parties and awaits their formal feedback.

"She is determined to do everything in her power to ensure that the victims and survivors get the redress they deserve as quickly as possible."

Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon said the Government "must end its stalling" on redress for victims of historical institutional abuse and welcomed the joint approach by local politicians.

She said: "Victims have waited too long. Many have died without justice or redress. The scandalous stalling and prevarication by British Secretary of State Karen Bradley and the Northern Ireland Office must end now.

"The British Government needs to move expeditiously to bring forward legislation and ensure that victims receive the redress they are entitled to."

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said: "The victims and survivors of institutional abuse have carried out a dignified and courageous campaign, even in the face of an absence of responsibility from those who could have helped them before now.

"Any further delay in delivering their compensation is not an option.

"This has dragged on long enough and it is time for the Secretary of State to take action, as she previously indicated she would do once she had the guidance of local parties."

"People should not have to face further injustice due to the political impasse. This is heart-breaking for those who believed they would be receiving compensation sooner than this and my thoughts are with them.

"The most important thing in this entire issue is the victims and survivors. They are literally running out of time to have their suffering ended, dignity restored and the compensation which they deserve given to them."

Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt said: "The parties are keen to continue to discuss the practical outworkings of these agreements, such as how we ensure redress monies are directed to victims and survivors rather than legal representatives, but today's agreement removes all obstacles to Mrs Bradley finally introducing legislation at Westminster.

"I would introduce one word of caution for victims and survivors, which is that any Bill passing through Parliament is subject to amendment, so while the local parties have agreed on issues such as top-up payments for those who settled for meagre amounts in civil actions, that doesn't prevent MPs overturning our wishes.

"That said, it was a good day for victims and survivors of institutional abuse and an encouraging day for devolution."

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that the Stormont Executive Office was to appoint an "interim advocate" for institutional abuse victims.

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