Abuse victims: Parliament suspension ‘another kick in the teeth’

Pacemaker Press  14/8/19'Margaret McGuckian and Members of Savia after a meeting with the former victims' commissioner Brendan McAllister at the Europa Hotel in Belfast on Wednesday.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 14/8/19'Margaret McGuckian and Members of Savia after a meeting with the former victims' commissioner Brendan McAllister at the Europa Hotel in Belfast on Wednesday.'Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
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Victims of historic institutional abuse have said the prorogation of parliament could be “another kick in the teeth” in their long campaign for redress.

It is more than two years since the chairman of an inquiry into abuse at children’s homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995 recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.

The compensation scheme requires the introduction of legislation but, with the Northern Ireland Assembly out of action and Parliament now also set to be suspended, the necessary laws can’t progress.

Margaret McGuckian, of lobby group SAVIA (Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse), has written to Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith requesting action. Speaking to the News Letter, she asked: “Is this going to be another kick in the teeth, yet again? Where does this leave us?”

In her letter to Mr Smith, she wrote: “Can we ask you to urgently speak to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on our (SAVIA’s) behalf as secretary of state for Northern Ireland and to appeal to him not to allow the passage of Historical Institutional Abuse legislation to be stalled or hindered once again.

“It has been unbelievably and torturously too often, that abuse victims’ hopes have been lifted up only to be dashed again and again.”

She continued: “The pain and torment of these knock backs, through no fault of theirs, is extremely mentally and emotionally upsetting, so much so that we fear many victims will lose the will to continue on in life!

“It’s as serious as this, abuse victims can take no more of these setbacks, the continued rejection, humiliation and downright torture upon them!

“We would appreciate you Julian Smith SoS find that open window of opportunity and bring through Westminster immediately the already published, prepared and redrafted HIA legislation early September before prorogation sets in.”

Jon McCourt, of Survivors North West, also said in a letter to Mr Smith that the prorogation has “caused anxiety and fear” among victims.

Mr McCourt wrote: “This morning’s (Wednesday) announcement by the prime minister, to seek the prorogation of Parliament just after its return in September, has caused anxiety and fear among members of Survivors (North West) that the issue of redress for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse will once again be a casualty of a government decision.

“At the meeting (last Friday with victims) you stated that you wanted to see the issue ‘discharged as quickly as possible’.

“Irrespective of the outcome of the prime minister’s approach on the prorogation of Parliament, it is our intention to hold you to your commitment to us.”

He continued: “There will be six working days before the suggested prorogation and on behalf of victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse would urge, at the first opportunity, by whatever means possible, to present the HIA redress legislation before Parliament. This will then start the much awaited process that will see this ‘discharged as quickly as possible’.”