UUP and civil service clash on abuse victim payments

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The head of the Northern Ireland civil says he cannot make interim payments to victims of institutional abuse in the absence of a Stormont Executive.

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

In his letter to UUP leader Robin Swann, head of the civil service David Sterling said: “The frustration and disappointment articulated by many victims and survivors about the current political impasse is one which is widely shared.”

Regarding the proposal to make interim payments to victims, he said: “We understand why these calls have been made given the passage of time (over 10 months) since the Report was published.

“Indeed, we have considerable sympathy with this. However, in our view, this would neither be justifiable nor deliverable without ministerial approval.”

He added: “I am considering how best we move this forward within the limitations of the current political circumstances, in a manner which would enable an incoming administration to make full and considered decisions quickly on the recommendations in the Hart Report.”

But UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt says the refusal to deliver any redress is “flawed”.

He added: “Tomorrow I meet representatives of what I believe is the oldest surviving victim of abuse. She was betrayed by those who were charged with looking after her 83 years ago and still she has to wait. What do I say to her and her family?”

He added: “Mr Sterling also states his officials have been undertaking appropriate preparatory and planning work. I have no idea what he means by ‘appropriate’ but I am clear that what is inappropriate is doing nothing for the victims. Victims and survivors had their claims of institutional abuse vindicated by the Inquiry in January, but eleven months later, they have had nothing.”