The chairman of a major inquiry into historical child abuse has demanded that Northern Ireland’s political leaders implement a victims’ redress scheme as a matter of urgency.
Former High Court Judge Sir Anthony Hart said he had taken the “highly unusual” step of writing to all party leaders at Stormont to voice his concern over the delay in bringing forward a promised redress scheme.
Sir Anthony said the delay was adding to the burden already being carried by abuse victims, many of whom are in poor health.
In January the inquiry into historical institutional child abuse found that children’s homes run by some churches, charities and state institutions in Northern Ireland were the scene of widespread abuse and mistreatment of young residents.
Sir Anthony recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.
However, the failure of the region’s two largest parties - the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein - to form a power sharing government has meant the inquiry’s recommendations have not been implemented.
Sir Anthony has now urged political leaders “to ensure that if an Executive is formed that the Inquiry’s recommendations are implemented in full by it as a matter of urgency.”
He said that in the event an Executive is not formed, then it will be for the British Government to carry out all the functions of government in Northern Ireland.
“Should that happen, we ask all the political parties in Northern Ireland to publicly call upon the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to recognise the welcome for our report expressed by all the parties in the Assembly debate of January 23 2017, and to implement the Inquiry’s recommendations in full as a matter of urgency.
“The implementation of our recommendations is urgent because so many of those who waited many years for their voices to be heard, and who anxiously await the implementation of our recommendations, are now advancing in years and/or in poor health, and for them the prospect of more delay adds to the burden so many have carried for so long,” he added.
Many victims have warned they have been left suicidal or facing financial ruin due to the delay in receiving redress.
Margaret McGuckin, of the campaign group Survivors & Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA), said the region’s politicians should be ashamed of themselves “for not getting themselves together and looking after the most vulnerable in society”.