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Child abuse inquiry 'will recommend compensation for victims'

Chairman of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, Sir Anthony Hart, pictured during an earlier inquiry. Picture by Arthur Allison, Pacemaker
Chairman of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, Sir Anthony Hart, pictured during an earlier inquiry. Picture by Arthur Allison, Pacemaker

AN inquiry into historical institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland will recommend that victims are paid compensation, its chairman said.

Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart is leading the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) into child abuse in residential institutions between 1922 and 1995.

While the inquiry's investigative work is not scheduled to finish until next summer, with a report due to be submitted to Stormont ministers in January 2017, Sir Anthony said he would recommend compensation.

"Because our investigations are not complete we are not yet in a position to say what our findings of systemic failings will be, or what all our recommendations will be," he said.

"However, what we can now say is that from the evidence we have heard so far we will recommend that there should be a scheme to award financial compensation to those children who suffered abuse in children's homes and other institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995."

Sir Anthony also announced the names of a further six institutions to be investigated, bringing the total number to 22.

The additional institutions are: Manor House (a children's home near Lisburn); Millisle Borstal; St Joseph's Training School for Girls (at Middletown, Co Armagh); and three Good Shepherd convents in Derry, Belfast and Newry.

The chairman said his team had considered allegations about 54 homes and institutions.

He said that to hold hearings into all those 54 facilities could take a further two years and cost around £8 million but would not significantly add to the inquiry's understanding of the nature and extent of systemic failings.

But he added: "Any recommendations that we make for any form of redress, including compensation, will apply to any person who was abused within a children's home or other institution within our terms of reference, whether or not that home or institution was investigated by the inquiry."

Sir Anthony said the inquiry would be conduct a consultation with abuse victims until Friday January 8 2016.

"Although our terms of reference provide that the inquiry will make recommendations and findings on a number of matters, the final decision as to whether there should be any form of redress, and what form it may take, are matters for the Northern Ireland Executive to decide," he said.

Victims campaigners have called for interim compensation payments, highlighting the age of many of those who suffered abuse.

Margaret McGuckin, spokeswoman for Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse, said: "Compensation needs to be fast-tracked".

"We are having meetings with the church, we need all the church figures to be spearheading this," she said.

An OFMDFM spokesman said the inclusion of six additional institutions will not delay the inquiry's report.

The current inquiry only covers the institutional abuse of victims aged under 18.

The spokesman added: "Ministers remain sensitive to the views of those who have suffered abuse who fall outside the scope of the Inquiry and are mindful of the equally destructive impact it has had on many people.

"Officials have completed a scoping exercise in relation to mother and baby home/ Magdalene asylums (laundries) and clerical abuse which ministers are giving careful consideration."