Belfast Telegraph

Too late for apology say NI abuse survivors as MPs pass compensation bill

Jon McCourt
Jon McCourt

By George Ryan

Any apology from Stormont for delaying legislation to compensate victims of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland would be too late now, a survivors' group has said.

MPs yesterday fast-tracked the Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill through Parliament before it is dissolved for the General Election.

Gerry McCann, chairperson of the Rosetta Trust, said that, in his opinion, an apology by the Executive Office to survivors of historic institutional abuse was "irrelevant now".

He said: "We're almost three years post-inquiry. Any form of apology now is too late. In terms of redress, where survivors and victims are most crucially concerned is that it's up and running as soon as possible.

"From that perspective, we feel by achieving that alone we will see that there's some tangible support for survivors and victims."

Other campaigners gathered outside Parliament yesterday said that a bill ensuring compensation would be paid to survivors of historic institutional abuse was "a long time coming".

Jon McCourt, chairman of Survivors North West, said: "There's certainly a power in what happened today. Hopefully this will be some closure to some people, we hope so, and what we really want to see is a speedy roll-out of the redress process.

"To celebrate on this is the wrong thing, I think it's taken too long to get here. Any good that was in it was lost on the journey but I'm glad we're at this point now."

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith urged victims to come forward to make a claim and said around 5,000 people could be eligible for compensation through the redress scheme the new law would set up.

Mr Smith said: "No matter what country they live in, I would now urge all victims and survivors to apply.

"Whether you are part of a victims' group or whether you have lived with your abuse silently for years, please make use of this redress scheme from this Bill."

The Bill establishes an Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board to administer a publicly funded compensation scheme for victims in Northern Ireland and also allows for a commissioner for survivors of institutional childhood abuse to be appointed.

Mr Smith paid tribute to Sir Anthony Hart, who chaired the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, and died in July before his report's recommendations could be implemented.

Mr Smith said: "I know that Sir Anthony was, I think, perplexed by the slowness of all of us to get this done."

The DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly said she is "angry" that it took so long for victims and survivors to get the redress that they deserve.

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