A campaigner for victims of historical institutional abuse has said she is “hopeful” the new Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith will introduce laws for a compensation scheme.
Margaret McGuckin, who was abused in the Sisters of Nazareth orphanage and heads up the campaign group SAVIA, was speaking after the leaders of the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, UUP, Alliance Party and Green Party wrote to Mr Smith asking for legislation to be introduced “at the earliest opportunity”.
A public inquiry into allegations of abuse at children’s homes and other residential institutions run by churches, charities and the state found abuse and mistreatment of the young people living there between 1922 and 1995 was “widespread”.
The inquiry chairman, the late Sir Anthony Hart, recommended compensation but the legislation required for the compensation scheme was never introduced.
Ms McGuckin accused former Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley of having a “brass neck” for asking the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons yesterday to “deliver” for victims of historical, institutional abuse.
“Why didn’t she do it herself,” Ms McGuckin asked.
“She was in the job long enough as secretary of state and she didn’t bring the legislation forward. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when she stood up there and told Boris Johnson to do it – the brass neck on her.
“My stomach was turning like a washing machine watching her say that after she’s delayed and delayed for so long.”
Asked whether she was optimistic Mrs Bradley’s successor would bring the laws necessary for the compensation scheme forward, the SAVIA campaigner said: “I am hopeful, yes. He will want to have a legacy and this is a perfect opportunity to do something on a cross-community issue.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster, in a statement, said: “One of the most urgent outstanding issues awaiting the new secretary of state is to ensure that victims of historical abuse can finally see the recommendations of Sir Anthony Hart’s report implemented.”
She added: “I hope that Julian Smith can make this the first area where can deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.”