Northern Ireland

HIA compensation a 'top priority' if Stormont talks fail

Margaret McGuckin
Image caption Margaret McGuckin suffered abuse as a child at Nazareth House Children's Home

Survivors of historical child abuse claim the secretary of state told them compensation will be a "top priority" if Stormont's power-sharing talks fail.

In January, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry recommended payments to survivors of abuse at children's residential homes.

Compensation has yet to be implemented due to a lack of devolved government.

Survivors have said they expect urgent action after they met Secretary of State James Brokenshire on Thursday.

However, they were told that he has no power to order compensation prior to the next round of political talks at Stormont.

Margaret McGuckin, who suffered abuse as a child at Nazareth House Children's Home, said survivors expect Mr Brokenshire to establish a redress scheme if Stormont is not up and running again in the autumn.

'Dismayed and angry'

"The only thing we got out of [the meeting] really is that he can't do anything at the present time until he knows fully that the executive will not be up and running again.

"He then said it would be a top priority to introduce a compensation scheme. That we are pleased with," she said.

"We let him know how dismayed and angry we are because of the stalemate of this government and how they have let us down - not only as children, but now again.

She added: "We were emotional at the meeting. I had no intentions of letting tears fall, but they did because it's been a long, long process for us.

"It's been almost ten years we've been campaigning, and not one of those people in the big house up here is listening to us."

'Frustration'

The redress scheme was one of the key recommendations from the abuse inquiry chaired by Judge Sir Anthony Hart.

The abuse survivors said they have cross-party support for a letter to the acting head of the Civil Service, David Sterling, asking the executive office to undertake preparatory work on a compensation scheme.

Ms McGuckin said four party leaders have signed the letter and they have been told by the DUP that Arlene Foster will add her name after she returns from leave.

In a statement, the Northern Ireland Office said: "The secretary of state fully recognises the frustration felt by victims and survivors at the lack of progress in taking it forward due to the suspension of the devolved administration.

"He is urging the parties to get back around the table as a matter of urgency to restore the executive so that priority issues such redress and support for victims and survivors of child abuse can be properly considered and resolved. "

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