Law to allow abuse payouts 
needed ‘as soon as possible’

Karen Bradley
Karen Bradley

Northern Ireland’s largest political parties have written to Secretary of State Karen Bradley to request new laws to compensate victims of institutional abuse.

The letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the News Letter, sets out in detail the position agreed by the six largest Stormont parties on compensation payments for victims of abuse at children’s homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland.

An inquiry found in 2017 that abuse at institutions run by the state, the Catholic Church and other groups was “widespread”.

The chairman of the inquiry, which was the biggest of its kind to have taken place in the UK, recommended compensation payments for abuse victims.

Two years later, no such compensation scheme has been set up.

Mrs Bradley has come under pressure to introduce legislation to allow compensation payments to proceed, but had said this should be dealt with by Northern Ireland’s political parties.

But, after an agreement reached by the six main parties at Stormont last week, the secretary of state has now been told in writing to bring the necessary legislation to Westminster “at the earliest opportunity”.

The letter, which has been signed by DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Fein Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill, UUP leader Robin Swann, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and Green Party leader Claire Bailey, states: “We now seek your urgent agreement to these legislative changes and that you ask the head of the civil service to make the amendments to the draft legislation in order for it to be taken through Westminster at the earliest opportunity.”

The letter states that compensation payments to survivors should start at £10,000 rather than the figure of £7,500 suggested by Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart.

It also states that “the level of award to a deceased person’s spouse or child should be 100% rather than 75%”, something the six party leaders say would be in “line with the arrangements for Child Migrant Scheme compensation”.

Addressing Mrs Bradley, the letter states: “Victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse have been waiting a very long time to receive the redress they deserve.”

The party leaders added: “They have told us clearly that we must do everything we can to ensure that the legislation addresses their needs.”