Peter Robinson: Ex-First Minister intervenes to call for compensation for abuse victims
FORMER First Minister Peter Robinson has made an extraordinary intervention to call for compensation for institutional abuse victims.
Writing in today's Irish News, the ex-DUP leader said he had hoped that recommendations made by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry would have been advanced.
The collapse of power-sharing has meant that the implementation of Sir Anthony Hart's report, which was published in January, has been delayed.
Mr Robinson has now called on Secretary of State James Brokenshire to consult the north's parties and ask if they agree for the report to be implemented.
The inquiry, which found widespread abuse and mistreatment of children in homes run by some churches, charities and the state, recommended that victims receive an apology and compensation of between £7,500 and £100,000.
Mr Robinson said he and the late former deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who both established the inquiry, had been "deeply affected" by victims' stories.
"Compensation was not top of their agenda but Martin and I recognised that there had to be a financial aspect to any just outcome of this appalling and vile chapter," he said.
Despite an often abrasive relationship with The Irish News during his time as First Minister, Mr Robinson has written for the paper to call for victims, many of whom are ill or elderly, to be given compensation.
Mr Robinson said victims had endured "society’s denial, disinterest or apathy and now they have become the victims of political stalemate and stasis".
"The victims of institutional abuse have waited an inordinately long and unacceptable time for the truth to be revealed, recognised and a measure of reparation to be made," he said.
Victims' campaigner Margaret McGuckin last night welcomed Mr Robinson's intervention.
"We have hoped and hoped," she said. "I welcome what Peter Robinson has said. When we met him and Martin McGuinness he said anyone can make an apology but what we need is action.
"All we are asking for is an interim payment to make people's lives more comfortable.
"People don't want to die in paupers' graves."
Mr Robinson's call comes on the day abuse victim Billy McConville, one of 10 children orphaned when their mother Jean McConville was murdered by the IRA in 1972, is laid to rest.
Mr McConville, who died on Sunday after a battle with cancer, told the Irish News earlier this month of his despair that institutional abuse victims were being failed because of the political impasse.
The 50-year-old's funeral will take place this morning at St Paul's Church on the Falls Road in west Belfast - the same church where his mother's funeral was held in 2003.
Mrs McConville's remains were found on a Co Louth beach in 2003 - 31 years after she was abducted and murdered by the IRA.
Speaking before Mr McConville's funeral, his brother Michael said on Tuesday he hoped politicians would work together to help victims.
"Billy lived out his last days in a media spotlight campaigning for justice for the victims of institutional sexual and physical abuse, a cause he felt passionately about," he said.
"When he was physically at his weakest he showed the greatest strength of character and we are proud of him for that.
"We all hope that politicians heed his dying wish that they get together to address this outstanding injustice as well as other issues affecting victims and survivors who have been pushed to the margins over many years.
"I hope everyone will understand that we as a family now need the time and space to quietly grieve for Billy.
"He was much loved.
"May he Rest In Peace."