Northern Ireland news

Child abuse victims head to court following Assembly collapse

Margaret McGuckin said the hope felt by many after the HIA report was published has since turned to despair. Picture by Hugh Russell
Deborah McAleese, Press Association

Victims of historical child abuse are being forced to take their fight for justice to the courts after being "abandoned" by Stormont's warring politicians.

In January a landmark report into state and church abuse recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.

Dozens of victims had given evidence during a four-year public inquiry about the abuse they suffered as children in care.

However, the collapse of the Stormont government has meant a promised redress scheme has not been set up.

A lawyer for abuse survivors, Claire McKeegan of KRW Law, said they now face the trauma of lengthy court proceedings for justice.

Ms McKeegan said redress is not a "windfall" for victims but constitutes the discharge of the debt owed to them by the state, the church orders and the relevant institutions "that so grievously failed them in the past".

"Despite the HIA Inquiry recommendations that survivors of abuse are entitled to proper redress, the government have yet to suggest let alone implement any such scheme.

"In the absence of any redress scheme with backing from the institutions and the state, we have no alternative at present than to advise our clients to issue and prosecute proceedings through the courts," said Ms McKeegan.

She added: "It is a further wrong perpetrated on these victims to require them to wait indefinitely for compensation and the care and assistance that they are entitled to and so greatly need."

Margaret McGuckin, of the campaign group Survivors & Victims of Institutional Abuse (SAVIA) said: "We have all had enough of this mess and many of us are at breaking point.

"We have been left feeling like we are begging our politicians to care for us, but they never listen. We have been abandoned again."

She added: "We just don't know where to turn for help. I unfortunately can see more of our people passing on without justice."

Secretary of State James Brokenshire recently admitted in a letter to DUP MLA Alex Easton that the implementation of the recommendations was not likely to happen soon.

He said as the report was commissioned by Stormont's first and deputy first ministers in 2012, they were obliged to lay the report in the Assembly.

"Given the current political situation in Northern Ireland, this is not likely to be imminently possible," he said.

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