Northern Ireland news

Payouts to abuse victims 'would be unconstitutional'

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has said the government cannot step in to give compensation to abuse victims. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

THE British Government would be acting unconstitutionally if it stepped in to pay compensation to abuse victims in Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley has insisted.

The Secretary of State said an intervention would undermine the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mrs Bradley has faced criticism for not taking action to release money for victims amid the powersharing impasse at Stormont.

It is more than a year since the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry recommended providing compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.

Mrs Bradley said she had "heartfelt sympathy" for those impacted by historical abuse.

"But we also have to be mindful that in doing that, and in doing what I fully understand what those victims want to see done, we don't also undermine the very basis of devolved government that we have in Northern Ireland," she said.

"This is a real difficulty for us.

"If this was an inquiry set up by the Scottish government and Westminster didn't like what the Scottish government had done and then legislated to do something, I don't think people would see that as constitutionally acceptable - this is no different, it's just we don't have devolved government in Northern Ireland at the moment."

Mrs Bradley said she did not have the power to intervene.

"Given the powers that I have, the very limited powers I have as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, for me to go beyond those powers for one specific issue, you have to be incredibly careful and mindful of the constitutional arrangements."

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