Northern Ireland

NI civil service forms draft HIA legislation

David Sterling appearing in front of the Northern Ireland Affairs committee
Image caption David Sterling appeared before the NI Affairs committee on Wednesday

The head of Northern Ireland's civil service will ask the secretary of state to bring forward legislation to redress survivors of institutional abuse if the executive is not restored.

David Sterling made the comments at the NI Affairs committee at Westminster.

It comes a year after a report into Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) was published.

On Wednesday, fresh talks began between parties.

Mr Sterling told MPs a that a team was working on forming draft legislation that would implement the HIA recommendations in full.

The HIA was established to examine allegations of child abuse in children's homes and other residential institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995.

The inquiry, which was chaired by Sir Anthony Hart, published its findings in January 2017.

Image caption The HIA heard evidence from hundreds of people who spent their childhood in residential homes and institutions

The Hart report recommended providing compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.

These have been delayed due to the collapse of devolution.

Image caption The inquiry was chaired by retired High Court judge Sir Anthony Hart

'Cause of concern'

Mr Sterling appeared before the NI Affairs committee on Wednesday to give evidence about the lack of devolution.

During questioning, North Down MP Lady Hermon asked the top civil servant about plans to implement the Hart recommendations.

David Sterling responded: "This is an issue that causes us more concerns than anything else, and we do feel for the victims.

"This has a real immediate impact on a group of people who have been horribly abused."

Image caption David Sterling appearing in front of the Northern Ireland Affairs committee

He added, that a team is currently working on forming draft legislation "which would have the effect of implementing the Hart recommendations in full".

Mr Sterling told MPs, that due to the complex nature of the legislation, he expects the draft legislation to be ready by the summer.

"If there is no executive in place, I will be asking the Secretary of State to take that legislation through parliament," he added.

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