Political news

Karen Bradley accused of 'delaying tactic' over abuse compensation

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy, Michelle O'Neill and Martina Anderson pictured after the meeting with Secretary of State Karen Bradley. Picture by Hugh Russell 

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has been accused of delaying compensation for abuse victims after she told Stormont parties they needed to answer additional questions about the stalled legislation.

Last week, Mrs Bradley asked the parties to examine four issues related to a redress scheme for victims of historic abuse in children's homes run by the state and religious orders.

At a roundtable meeting of the leaders today, she informed them there were now an additional 11 questions that required answers, although she did not specify what those questions were during the meeting at the Stormont Hotel.

Afterwards, Sinn Féin's northern leader Michelle O'Neill said: "It think it's just not good enough.

"If there are 15 questions why do we need to wait for Karen Bradley to decide to release the questions?

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"These are not insurmountable issues - to me it's more of a delaying tactic."

UUP leader Robin Swann also criticised the move.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley

"I think that's stalling tactics and it's something we are very disappointed in," he said.

"The parties did express their frustrations that what we were told we needed to answer, we actually had answered.

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"There is a commitment now from the six parties to move - as soon as we get told what the questions are the secretary of state actually needs answered so she can legislate."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accused Mrs Bradley of "disgraceful behaviour".

"It's unfortunate now we are being asked to answer more questions," he said.

"But we'll do it, we will get on with that and make sure there are no excuses left for this Secretary of State who has tried to use these victims as a political pawn, which is totally and utterly disgraceful.

"This has been a mess, it has been a total mess.

"The secretary of state has used this issue and these people, who have been suffering and waiting far too long. It's just wrong what has happened here."

Mrs Bradley said the meeting with the party leaders had been "very constructive".

The roundtable came ahead of a series of meeting the Secretary of State has arranged with abuse victims who have expressed their anger at the delay.

"I am very grateful that the party leaders came together this morning and addressed some of the questions that are outstanding," she said.

"But there are more questions and the Executive Office will be sending those questions to the party leaders shortly and they 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 and we need those fundamental questions to be answered."

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry said the development was evidence of "shifting goalposts" by the Government.

"People are wanting to get this over the line, looking for certainty, and just as perhaps you feel as one set of problems or questions have been addressed other issues seem to pop up and that just adds to the growing sense of frustration," he said.

"But I think if everyone just sits down and hammers this out this can be resolved."

He added: "There is a willingness on the part of all of the political parties to ensure this issue is resolved as speedily as possible and there are some very particular responsibilities on the secretary of state in the absence of a government here.

"In no way shape or form should victims be used as pawns in the political process so this has to be resolved one way or the other."

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