Northern Ireland Secretary urged to act on redress for abuse victims

Northern Ireland’s political parties have urged the new Secretary of State to act over compensation for abuse victims.

Payments to victims of historical institutional abuse were recommended by the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry in 2017.

However the Government rejected a bid to rush through legislation before the summer recess to allow compensation payments to be paid.

On Wednesday DUP MP Ian Paisley urged the Government to introduce the revised Bill on Wednesday and then push it through the Commons and Lords.

But Northern Ireland minister John Penrose told MPs that the draft Historical Abuse Bill is still being worked on.

A joint letter signed by DUP leader Arlene Foster, Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill, UUP leader Robin Swann, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Alliance leader Naomi Long, Green Party leader Clare Bailey and independent MLA Claire Sugden has urged Mr Smith to act.

The letter, dated July 25, asks Mr Smith to ensure that all victims get a payment in a timely manner, and calls on Government to “bring forward the legislation, at the earliest possible opportunity, in order to alleviate the concerns of the victims and survivors that there will be further delays”.

Mrs Foster said the issue is one of the most urgent awaiting the new Northern Ireland Secretary.

“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 said.

“This is an issue where there is strong cross-community support and we urged his predecessor to ensure the legislation was brought forward.

“I hope that Julian Smith can make this the first area where he can deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.”

Ms O’Neill said the victims have had to wait too long without justice or redress.

“We have continuously challenged the disgraceful stalling and prevarication by the previous British Secretary of State and the NIO,” she said.

“This letter clearly demonstrates a united voice from all main political parties in the North for an end to the foot-dragging on this important issue.

“It is now up to Julian Smith in his first days in office to act in good faith and legislate to meet the needs of victims and survivors as a matter of urgency.”

The HIA Inquiry led by Sir Anthony Hart found widespread and systemic abuse in children’s homes across Northern Ireland and made a number of recommendations, including compensation for victims.

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