Northern Ireland news

Institutional abuse survivors accuse Karen Bradley of 'failing' them

Karen Bradley faced criticism after she asked the main Stormont parties to answer a fresh batch of questions on draft legislation, only days after asking them to respond to an initial four queries. Picture by David Young/PA Wire

ABUSE survivors are "shattered" at Secretary of State Karen Bradley's suggestion during meetings at Stormont House that legislation for compensation payments could take two years.

It had been hoped that a way forward could be agreed after six Stormont parties met yesterday morning to address key questions about the redress process.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry recommended compensation payments to victims more than two years ago.

Yesterday's discussions focused on four key areas, including whether a standard payment to all victims should be £7,500, as suggested in the HIA report, or £10,000 as a majority of respondents to a consultation on draft legislation suggested.

Ron Graham, and Margaret McGuckin from the SAVIA lobby group were both disappointed after the meeting. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The parties had agreed to send a joint letter to Mrs Bradley which answered the initial questions she raised.

Analysis: Abuse survivors in despair as Karen Bradley fails to act

However, shortly before she met victims, the Secretary of State said she wanted the parties to answer a further 11 questions.

Margaret McGuckin, from victims' campaign group SAVIA, noted that the further questions had originated from Stormont's Executive Office and the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service David Sterling.

She queried why they had emerged at the "last minute" and asked if victims been "led up the garden path".

"This can is being kicked down the road further yet again," she said.

Survivors North West chairman Jon McCourt fears it could be another year before the redress scheme was implemented. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

"...Secretary of State Karen Bradley says about it going through Westminster would take 16 months to two years.

"Has any of these people, or the majority of our people out there, got that time? No one has that time."

Read More: Karen Bradley 'should resign' over failure to deliver compensation for abuse victims

She presented Mrs Bradley with a list of all the victims who have died since around the time of the HIA report.

The group is planning to picket a garden party at Hillsborough Castle today.

Ms McGuckin said: "I don't know how half of our people are going to survive after thinking that we were getting somewhere today, that this was the day that we would find justice. I am just shattered."

Jon McCourt, chairman of the Survivors North West group, became emotional as he expressed fears more survivors will die before the redress scheme was implemented.

Mr McCourt, who was abused at St Joseph's Children's Home in Derry, said Mrs Bradley ruled out interim payments for older abuse victims and those suffering from terminal illnesses.

Mr McCourt accused her of "a form of emotional blackmail" after she said the redress scheme could be running within six weeks if Stormont was restored.

"We are fighting the best fight we can, we'll take them on, we'll take it to the end but, unfortunately, we have no idea when that end is going to be.

"By the time we get there we won't have as many people as we have today."

Marty Adams, who suffered abuse in Rathgael Training School in Bangor, said Mrs Bradley has "failed to deliver".

Mr Adams, a representative of Survivors Together, told the Secretary of State I have no confidence in her" and she should "go with (Theresa May) because she has failed victims of historical abuse, she has failed to govern this country when politicians have failed".

"We are probably talking another 18 months to two years (for the Stormont redress scheme) and I would call on all victims of historical abuse to start seeking the legal route, start speaking to a solicitor, because they will probably get things done quicker and that's the reality," he said.

Mrs Bradley said the parties "have all given me their commitment that they will work to address those questions as soon as possible because I want to see redress for those victims of historical institutional abuse as quickly as possible".

UUP leader Robin Swann said Mrs Bradley's latest demand is "a stalling tactic".

"What we were told we needed to answer we actually had answered," he said.

Sinn Féin leader Michelle O'Neill said core issues were already agreed and "there is nothing more to hide behind".

"These victims are dying whilst waiting to have access to recompense for what was such a horrible, horrible injustice that was done unto them."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood vowed to "get on with that and make sure that there's no excuses left for this secretary of state who's tried to use these victims as a political pawn which is totally and utterly disgraceful".

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said "in no way shape or form should victims be used as a pawn in the political process".

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