Government will receive request for laws leading to abuse victims' compensation

The Government is set to receive an official request to pass laws paving the way to compensate abuse victims in Northern Ireland within weeks.

The head of civil service in the region, the man effectively running public services amid the powersharing crisis, has confirmed legislation currently being drafted by his officials will be finalised this summer.

David Sterling said if powersharing is not restored by then he will formally ask Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to take the legislation through the Westminster parliament.

"We owe it to the survivors to do all we can for them," he said.

The collapse of the Stormont executive has hampered efforts to implement the recommendations of a major inquiry into historical institutional abuse in the region.

The Government has so far resisted calls from victims and campaigners to implement the recommendations, including a redress scheme, in the absence of devolution.

Mr Sterling said he will ask Mrs Bradley to action two of the main recommendations of the inquiry team led by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart - the establishment of a Redress Board and a Commission for Survivors of Institutional Child Abuse.

It is understood the Northern Ireland Office could be handed the draft legislation as early as July.

Addressing a charity event in Belfast this week, Mr Sterling said he was aware of the impact the powersharing crisis was having on society, with so many decisions left in "limbo" due to the absence of either Stormont or direct rule ministers.

"And, in particular, I am thinking now of the survivors of historic institutional abuse," he said.

"Personally, this is one of the most difficult issues I have faced in my Civil Service career.

"Published in January 2017 after a four-year public inquiry, the Hart report arrived in The Executive Office (TEO) just before the dissolution of the Executive.

"By statute, this report was to be delivered to the Executive for their consideration with ministers to take the key decisions on its recommendations.

"Despite the obvious public interest and political commentary to find a resolution for the survivors, decisions rest with ministers, and not officials.

"But that does not mean we are doing nothing.

"I have instructed officials in TEO to produce draft legislation that would allow for the Redress Board and the Commission for Survivors of Institutional Child Abuse to be put into place, two of Hart's key recommendations.

"When drafted - which will be no later than the summer - and if we have no Executive in place, I will be asking the Secretary of State to take that legislation through Parliament."