A campaigner for victims of historical institutional abuse has said she will no longer even meet with the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) after the timeline for a compensation scheme was pushed back.
Margaret McGuckin, who was abused in the Sisters of Nazareth orphanage and heads up the campaign group SAVIA, accused the Secretary of State Karen Bradley, who was sacked last night, of showing an “uncaring attitude”.
Her comments came after Mrs Bradley said new legislation to compensate victims of abuse at children’s homes might not be introduced until the end of the year.
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, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.
But the legislation required for the compensation scheme was never introduced.
following the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly, campaigners have called for the intervention of the Northern Ireland Secretary in the Assembly’s absence.
The main political parties in Northern Ireland agreed at the beginning of June to give their assent to amendments to draft legislation, and the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service David Sterling wrote to Mrs Bradley this month to outline the agreed position.
After that letter was sent, Margaret McGuckin and other campaigners had hoped the new laws could be brought forward quickly.
But Mrs Bradley has now suggested, in a letter seen by the News Letter, the laws would not be introduced until the end of the year if the Assembly is still not up-and-running again before then.
Margaret McGuckin said she is “devastated” by the letter from Karen Bradley.
“She said it could be the end of the year and only if Stormont is still not back,” she told the News Letter. “I’m devastated. That’s the only way to put it. We are still stuck in this quagmire – we’ve heard it all before.
“This is what we’ve been hearing for years now, that ‘it’ll be before the end of the year’, and that turns into ‘early next year’.
“The victims are just being used as a political football.”
She continued: “You would think there would be a more caring attitude. But it’s not, it’s the same uncaring attitude to victims.”
Ms McGuckin added: “We will certainly not want to meet with the NIO officials ever again.”