N. Ireland Politics

'Joint DUP-Sinn Féin approach' could lead to abuse compensation

A sign that reads: Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption A report after the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry recommended payments be made to survivors.

The DUP and Sinn Féin have indicated that they could jointly approach the government to ask it to put a system in place to allow historical abuse victims to receive compensation.

A report after a lengthy inquiry into abuse in Northern Ireland recommended payments be made to survivors.

But that has yet to be implemented because a power-sharing Stormont executive does not exist to pass it.

Victims have called on the parties to quickly agree a compensation process.

Campaigner Margaret McGuckin said survivors of abuse are in desperate need of compensation, with many now in poor health.

"So many of our people are mentally ill; emotionally ill; in care homes; on their death beds," she said.

"Now they're saying: 'Just give us the money to bury ourselves.'"

Sir Anthony Hart, the retired judge who led the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, has written to political parties to urge a "speedy implementation" of his proposals.

'Find a way'

On Thursday, Sinn Féin's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill set out her plan for setting up a compensation fund.

It included a proposal that the parties agree to commit an initial amount of funding from the Northern Ireland budget and seek a "significant contribution" from the government and religious institutions.

She has written to the leaders of the other parties to seek their support for her plan to secure funding for victims.

The DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said that in the absence of an executive, the Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire must intervene.

He suggested that the parties make a united approach to ask Mr Brokenshire "to see if a mechanism can be agreed to enable the implementation" of Sir Anthony's recommendations.

He also suggested that interim measures could be put in place to allow victims to receive a sum of money.

"Notwithstanding the political differences in Northern Ireland, we do actually care about those who have suffered," he said.

"We have a duty as political parties to respond to the needs of the victims.

"If we don't have an executive, we will find a way of taking this forward.

"We will work with the other parties to deliver that, even though our preferred outcome is to have an executive so this report can be fully implemented."

'Give some comfort'

Sinn Féin's Linda Dillon said her party would "absolutely" join the DUP in making a request to Mr Brokenshire.

The Mid Ulster MLA also said that no parties had responded to Mrs O'Neill letter as of Friday afternoon.

She said the proposals that Mrs O'Neill put forward had come "from the victims and survivors themselves".

"All of us need to give consent to this and I don't think any party should have any issue," she added.

The Northern Ireland Office has said that Mr Brokenshire has agreed to meet abuse victims after they called him to implement a redress scheme.

Ms McGuckin said that interim payments would be acceptable and would "give people some comfort in their lives".

"I hope that our government will finally do something for them."