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Terminally ill son of Jean McConville sends powerful message to warring politicians

As yet another political deadline looks set to pass without agreement, a gravely ill son of murdered mother Jean McConville, who was abused as an orphan child in the care of the Catholic Church, has called on politicians to "get back to work" and implement a redress scheme for victims. Allison Morris reports

Billy McConville (50) son of IRA murder victim Jean McConville, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, has urged politicians to get Stormont up and running and help victims of Church and State child abuse.Picture by Hugh Russell.

BILLY McConville was just six-year-old when in December 1972 his mother was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.

Along with his nine siblings he was placed in care where he was abused both physically and sexually by staff members and older boys.

He gave evidence to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry about his time in church and state care, saying he thought it was important at the time to "tell his story".

Now at the age of just 50 he has been given weeks to live after bladder cancer spread throughout his body. If his heart stops he has asked doctors not to resuscitate him.

Jean McConville left behind 10 young children after she was abducted and murdered by the IRA. Picture by Alan Lewis

However, despite being in the final weeks of his life, he has take the brave step to speak out saying he hopes his plight "can help others who were abused."

"Me and my family were let down by every side, and we're still being let down by politicians", he said.

Billy McConville (50) son of IRA murder victim Jean McConville, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, has urged politicians to get Stormont up and running and help victims of Church and State child abuse.Picture by Hugh Russell.

Chairman of the HIA inquiry Sir Anthony Hart found abuse of children had been systemic in some care homes, including those housing the McConville children, who were moved around numerous institutions after their mother was abducted from their Divis flats home by the IRA.

Sir Anthony Hart recommended compensation be paid to victims of Church and state child abuse.

The retired judge also took the highly unusual step of writing to senior politicians saying the redress scheme needed to be set up as soon as possible because many victims "are now advancing in years and/or in poor health, and for them the prospect of more delay adds to the burden so many have carried for so long".

Since the collapse of the institutions and the failure of the DUP and Sinn Féin to reach a deal on the restoration of devolution, campaigners have warned that victims - some of who are in advancing years - are running out of time.

Billy McConville (50) son of IRA murder victim Jean McConville, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, has urged politicians to get Stormont up and running and help victims of Church and State child abuse.Picture by Hugh Russell.

Mr McConville said while the deadline for the restoration of Stormont can be moved to accommodate the political parties his time is running out.

"I don't have any more time," he said.

"Victims who have been let down again and again finally thought that we'd been heard, that we'd something to live for and look forward to, now all I have to look forward to is a coffin.

"My cancer is so serious I could die any minute, I've told the doctor not to put me on a machine, I don't want to be kept alive like that.

"The politicians have all the time in the world, their wages are still being paid, but my time and other victims time is running out.

"As long as the politicians their wages they don't give a damn, my last message to them would be to say do what you're elected to do, give the people what they deserve, show proper leadership".

Margaret McGuckian of pressure group SAVIA,at the survivors Vigil outside Belfast City Hall Picture by Hugh Russell.

Margaret McGuckin of campaign group Savia, said it was time for the secretary of state to implement the recommendations saying Billy's was not an isolated case.

"Billy is such a brave man to speak out when he is so ill," she said.

"He knows by doing to so he is sending out a powerful message to our political leaders to get back to work and address the needs of victims.

"We have other elderly victims for whom the clock ticking and what they feel we all feel, the rejection and hurt never leave you and now this, people being re-traumatised all over again", Ms McGuckin added.

Calling for emergency legislation to be put in place to fast track the payment scheme, which can be done in the absence of a political agreement, she said: "We are sick and tired of trying to appeal to the leading parties to implement the HIA Redress scheme.

"Now it's over to the Secretary of State to do what's right. Many millions were paid into this inquiry in order to look out for the once forgotten and abused children of former church and state run institutions. But here we are in 2017 going through more abuse as survivors are forgotten about once again."

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