Abuse victims: We want compensation scheme set up before Christmas

Abuse victims have told top ranking officials at the Northern Ireland Civil Service in an emotionally charged meeting that a compensation scheme must be established before Christmas.

Monday, 11th November 2019, 6:50 pm
Margaret McGuckin (centre) and other campaigners after their meeting at Castle Buildings

Legislation to compensate victims of historic abuse at children’s homes in Northern Ireland was passed in dramatic circumstances at Westminster last week, just hours before Parliament dissolved for the general election.

This means Stormont officials are now obligated to introduce a redress scheme for victims and survivors after years of campaigning and legal battles.

An inquiry found in 2017 that there was “widespread” abuse at children’s homes run by the state, churches and charities in Northern Ireland, and the inquiry chairman, the late Sir Anthony Hart, recommended compensation and a public apology for victims.

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Despite cross-party political support in Northern Ireland, the redress scheme was never introduced and victims were forced to lobby MPs at Westminster to take action.

The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, David Sterling, met with victims’ groups at Stormont today to discuss the next steps, following the passage of a bill at Westminster to introduce the redress cheme.

Margaret McGuckin, an abuse victim who leads the lobby group SAVIA (Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse), said Mr Sterling was told there can be no further delay.

“I am with a cross-community grouping here who were in tears during that meeting,” she told the News Letter.

“They (the civil service officials) were told about the torment, the heartbreak, the emotional stress and pain that everybody’s come through.”

She added: “They saw the raw heartbreak of our people.

“They need to take steps immediately to put this (redress scheme) into place. The least that they could do would be to start rolling out those payments for Christmas.”

Mr Sterling described the meetings as “useful”.

In a statement he said: “Following the passage of the Historical Institutional Abuse Bill last week, I have had useful meetings today with victims and survivors groups to discuss with them the next steps for the establishment of the Redress Board.”

Mr Sterling added: “There are a number of critical steps that must now be undertaken and The Executive Office is working closely with other NICS departments and the Interim Advocate to drive these forward.

“The focus is on ensuring victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse get the redress they deserve as quickly as possible.”