Northern Ireland

Brokenshire criticised on historical abuse compensation

HIA
Image caption Sir Anthony Hart's report after the HIA inquiry recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology

Victims of institutional abuse have said they are angry that NI Secretary James Brokenshire will not to use his powers to make interim compensation payments.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry recommended a state apology and compensation for victims.

The collapse of Stormont in January meant the process was put on hold.

A spokesperson said Mr Brokenshire had made "no decisions" on the issue.

The government spokesperson added that it "remains a devolved issue" and that abuse compensation was "one of the many reasons (Mr Brokenshire) remains determined to get an NI Executive back up and running".

"He continues to urge the parties to seek urgent resolution to restore the executive so that a response can be provided to Sir Anthony's (HIA) report at the earliest opportunity."

Coward's way out?

Margaret McGuckian, who set up Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia), said the comments were "a coward's way out" and accused Mr Brokenshire of "blanking out" victims.

"He has the power and in the meeting we had, with the head of the Civil Service, he had to end up saying that, yes, the only way forward is for the secretary of state to introduce emergency legislation," she told the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme.

The group would now be taking its protest to Westminster, she added.

Mike Nesbitt, an Ulster Unionist MLA and former Victims Commissioner, said he "simply didn't understand James Brokenshire's thinking".

Image caption A government spokesperson said James Brokenshire had made "no decisions" on HIA payments

"When there was a problem with the budget because of a lack of Assembly, he moved to bring forward legislation at Westminster.

"When there was a problem with the fact there was no legal mechanism to restore the executive had the DUP and Sinn Féin come to an agreement, he moved to introduce Westminster to fix that problem.

"And now he's refusing to move to give victims even an interim payment."

He added: "All they're asking from James Brokenshire is a small interim payment. It's not 1% of the executive budget. It's not 0.1%.

"It's so small it would probably be measured in the third decimal point.

"That's all they're asking. And meanwhile victims are dying, they're losing their houses, they're not able to look after their children and their grandchildren.

"This is an absolutely disgraceful situation."

Image caption Mike Nesbitt said the continued lack of compensation was "disgraceful"

Mr Nesbitt said he believed the leaders of the five main Northern Ireland political parties were all in agreement that "something should be done to start the process of addressing the needs of victims".

There have previously been calls for Mr Brokenshire to act on compensation payments for abuse victims.

In July, former first minister Peter Robinson said there would not be "much contention" from parties at Stormont if Mr Brokenshire acted to begin compensation payments "immediately".

Sir Anthony Hart, the judge that led the HIA Inquiry, recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.

He said a tax-free lump sum payment should be made to all survivors, including in homes and institutions that were not covered by the inquiry.

More on this story