Northern Ireland

'Help us now' NI abuse survivors tell Westminster MPs

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

Victims of institutional abuse travelled to Westminster on Monday to appeal for the government to begin 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.

The group was hosted at Westminster by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Margaret McGuckin, from Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia), travelled to Westminster.

"They're far removed... don't seem to care about what happens here, so we're going to bring our message to them and stand outside the Houses of Parliament with banners," she said.

Image caption Margaret McGuckin, Savia, had previously criticised James Brokenshire for not acting on compensation

She said the group asked Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to release an interim compensation payment to the 524 individuals who gave evidence to the public inquiry led by Sir Anthony Hart.

However, he told them that the power to release the money lay with the head of the NI Civil Service David Sterling.

Earlier on Monday, the group received an email from Mr Sterling saying in the absence of an executive he was "looking at what might be done quickly to address the needs of victims in line with the recommendations of the HIA Inquiry".

Sir Anthony Hart, the judge who 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 those in homes and institutions not covered by the inquiry.

Ms McGuckin said the compensation would start at £7,500.

"Sir Anthony Hart deemed that would be the basic amount, because even being in those places for a week or month you suffered," she said.

"It goes up to £100,000, but that would be for those who migrated to Australia.

"We are asking the government to put some money aside in this budget which would start an interim redress panel that doesn't need legislation.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption The HIA was chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart

"We know we have the support of every party, including the two main parties.

"Our MLAs have written to the head of the civil service and James Brokenshire saying they must deliver that standard payment.

"Many of our people were never educated, never held down a job. They are mentally ill, disabled because of the abuse they suffered and they are a sorry sight - but they are beautiful people.

"We are bringing that to the UK government's doorstep.

"In our last meeting James Brokenshire did say, after I asked would we be a top priority, that we would be one of them.

"If we we are one of his top priorities, let him show us today that he cares."

She and other victims have previously called on Mr Brokenshire to begin compensation payments and accused him of "blanking out" victims.

A government spokesperson said it was a "devolved issue".

Mr Brokenshire is expected to legislate for a Northern Ireland budget later, after power-sharing talks to restore devolved government failed.

Others have also called on Mr Brokenshire to act on compensation payments. These include former first minister Peter Robinson who said that there would not be "much contention" from parties at Stormont if Mr Brokenshire acted to begin compensation payments "immediately".

Related Topics

More on this story