Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland historical abuse victims 'will not receive compensation while Stormont deadlock continues'

Northern Ireland historical abuse victims in residential homes will not receive interim compensation until the Stormont impasse is resolved, it has been learned.

In a letter to the victims, head of the NI civil service David Sterling stated that their "frustration and disappointment" over the delayed payment was caused by the political deadlock.

Compensation payments to survivors of abuse were recommended by the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry. However, power sharing at Stormont collapsed days later.

The HIA Inquiry was directed and pushed by Sir Anthony Hart.

The BBC reports a copy of the letter, which states that payments would be open to legal challenge without approval from ministers, was also sent to Northern Ireland's five biggest political parties.

A spokesman from the Executive Office said: "In the absence of Ministers and political decisions on the recommendations in the HIAI Report we are conducting this work on the premise that there would be full implementation of the Hart recommendations, including preparation of the necessary legislation to establish the Redress Board and the Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse (COSICA) Office.

"To maintain momentum therefore, our intention is that preparations should continue for the establishment of the necessary administrative arrangements to deliver the Hart recommendations and that work should proceed on draft legislation.

"In view of the ongoing political uncertainty we will prepare this on the basis that it could be laid in either the Assembly or Parliament. Either route will, of course, require agreement by Ministers."

The spokesman added: "Should there be a restored Executive then the draft legislation would be completed and presented as an Assembly Bill."

Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon said they will challenge the decision.

The Mid-Ulster MLA said: "We do not accept that legislation is needed because the victims have already been identified by the Hart Inquiry and recommendations for a standard payment made.

"My Party Leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill has also made a proposal as to how this could be actioned and that has been supported by all the Executive parties so the political direction is clear.

“I do not see any reason why the civil service cannot follow that political direction and we will be challenging their refusal to do so."

The Sinn Fein representative added: "Sinn Fein is seeking an urgent meeting with the head of the civil service and we will be calling on him to reverse this decision and put arrangements in place to make a standard payment.

"We will also continue to engage closely with the survivors and victims to reaffirm our support for them and to ensure measures are put in place to address their needs."

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