Northern Ireland news

Abuse survivors more relieved than jubilant after Court of Appeal ruling

Survivors of institutional abuse outside the Court of Appeal in Belfast yesterday. Picture by Mal McCann

AS abuse survivors left the Court of Appeal in Belfast yesterday, most seemed more relieved than jubilant.

A court had clearly stated that what they experienced in state and church-run children's homes and schools was "torture".

It also ruled that Stormont's Executive Office has the power to compensate them.

Standing in front of reporters and television cameras, a few survivors were visibly emotional.

All agreed they were glad the case had finally ended.

"We're overjoyed here and we never want to see the inside of this courtroom again," campaigner Margaret McGuckin said.

People cheered as she unfurled a 'Redress for Victims' banner. But Ms McGuckin also said said many victims had died without being able to access compensation.

Professor Phil Scraton, who helped uncover the truth about the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster, stood with victims outside the court.

The softly-spoken academic said the use of the word "torture" in the case was hugely significant.

"It's almost unheard of to have torture ruled about in court and to hear it today three or four times in the judgment demonstrates what incredible injustice was meted on all of those people who were held during that period of time," he said.

He said the lengthy delay in setting up a redress scheme had only added to victims' suffering.

"I've rarely seen a case where there is united agreement in how it should be resolved and to see these wonderful people around me today actually still fighting to get just the basic, meagre payments they are being offered... you can't bring redress for what they have been through with money and I just feel that we have to recognise that justice delayed is an injustice."

The case is likely to have wider implications for government departments in the absence of devolution.

But for the victims, all eyes will be on Westminster today. A bill setting up a compensation scheme could just squeak through in the House of Commons before parliament is dissolved tomorrow.

Victims groups, including Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia), Survivors North West and The Rosetta Trust have met Secretary of State Julian Smith and other senior government figures in a last-ditch bid to push for redress.

For survivors exhausted by more than a decade of campaigning, this bill provides the best chance they have of receiving compensation.

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