Historic abuse victims ‘not even an afterthought’ as Parliament shuts down

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Campaigners for victims of historic abuse say they feel let down after a scheduled debate on redress measures was dropped, just hours before Parliament was suspended.

A debate on the progress of proposals to help victims of abuse at children’s homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland was due to take place in Westminster on Monday night.

However, it was dropped amid unprecedented scenes in the House of Commons in the hours before Parliament was suspended, or prorogued, for a period of five weeks.

Margaret McGuckin, a campaigner with lobby group SAVIA, told the News Letter the decision to drop the debate shows that victims and survivors of institutional abuse are an “afterthought”.

Jon McCourt, of Survivors North West, added that the decision to drop the debate was “certainly a knock”.

It represents the latest setback in a long-running campaign for redress for victims.

An inquiry found in 2017 that the abuse in children’s homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland during the period from 1922 to 1995 was “widespread”.

The chairman of the inquiry, the late Sir Anthony Hart, recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors. But the laws required for the compensation scheme have never been introduced and, with Stormont out of action for more than two years, campaigners have sought the introduction of legislation at Westminster.

Parliament was due to debate progress on the matter on Monday before the debate was scrapped.

Lady Sylvia Hermon, an independent MP for North Down, described the decision to skip the debate and then suspend parliament as “appalling”.

Ms McGuckin, speaking to the News Letter yesterday, said: “It goes to show who is up the ladder and who is down the ladder. We’re the lowest of the low, that’s how much they thought of us that it didn’t even get a mention.

“We’ve had so many knocks now, and if you watched the way they guffawed and laughed over there — we weren’t even an afterthought. Only for Sylvia Hermon, who I must thank for speaking up, there wouldn’t have been a word about it.”

Mr McCourt said: “It was certainly a knock back that it wasn’t even discussed, that it was scrubbed from the list, but it wasn’t the actual legislation. The Secretary of State (for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith) has committed to seeing this legislation brought forward.”