Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland party leaders urge Bradley to compensate abuse victims

Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

Northern Ireland's political leaders have penned a joint letter to Secretary of State Karen Bradley urging her to bring forward legislation to compensate victims of historical institutional abuse.

Earlier this week, Karen Bradley sparked outrage after she added the issue to the agenda of the power-sharing talks at Stormont, rather than pushing the legislation through parliament.

Many victims called on the Secretary of State to resign and accused her of using them as a "political football" to force Northern Ireland's political parties into a deal restore the institutions.

On Thursday, Mrs Bradley addressed the furore around her decision, stating "fundamental questions" had arisen during a public consultation exercise on the draft legislation.

"We cannot go forward until we have answered those questions," she said.

"I want to get on with this with the utmost urgency but those questions need answering and part of that is the political parties in Northern Ireland helping to answer those questions."

In a letter penned by the leaders of Sinn Fein, the DUP, UUP, SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party, Mrs Bradley has now been formally asked to progress legislation on the issue through Westminster.

"The Head of the Civil Service David Sterling has formally asked you as the Secretary of State to progress legislation through Westminster to compensate victims of Historical Institutional Abuse," they wrote.

"In his appeal to you, Mr Sterling has stressed the need to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion, particularly given the age profiles of those involved.

"You have rejected this appeal from the Head of the Civil Service for legislation to compensate victims of historical institutional abuse, instead claiming that it should be a matter for the Stormont negotiations.

"The parties share the view that despite ongoing talks aimed at restoring the Assembly that the recommendations of the Hart Inquiry should be addressed without any further delay and a suitable legal and financial framework put in place to begin addressing the needs of victims by you as Secretary of State.

"We look forward to your response shortly."

Compensation payments recommended by the Stormont-commissioned Hart Inquiry have been on ice for two and a half years due to the collapse of the devolved institutions.

Under its recommendations, victims would have been paid between £7,500 and £100,000 in compensation.

Dozens have victims have died since the report was published without receiving any payments.

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