Peter Robinson's surprise comments on abuse victims get broad welcome

Peter Robinson (left) and the late Martin McGuinness, pictured in 2015, pledged their support for victims of historical abuse. Picture by PA
Suzanne McGonagle and John Manley

POLITICANS and campaigners have welcomed an extraordinary intervention by former first minister Peter Robinson calling for action for institutional abuses victims.

The ex-DUP leader yesterday said the issue had been "swept under the carpet for too long" and the delay in implementing the recommendations of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) had been "unfair and unnecessarily deferred" by the collapse of the Stormont institutions.

Writing in the Irish News, he called on Secretary of State James Brokenshire to act on the inquiry's recommendations. He also described how he and the late Martin McGuinness had been "deeply affected" by the victims' experiences.

Patrick Corrigan for Amnesty International last night said Mr Robinson's remarks were "timely and welcome".

"I remember those initial meetings which Peter Robinson referenced in his article when he and Martin McGuinness met abuse victims," he said.

"I remember also when he and the deputy first minister personally pledged to help abuse victims and I think his renewed engagement is timely and welcome.

"It comes on top of Sir Anthony Hart's repeated reminder to politicians to deliver justice for victims."

Mr Corrigan added: "The Panel of Experts on Redress, which represents the four victims groups as well as Amnesty has already submitted substantial details recording how the inquiry can be improved and implemented.

"The pain and suffering of these people should not be prolonged any further."

Analysis: It's difficult to tell whether Peter Robinson is having a go at his successor or flying a flag on her behalf

Speaking to the Irish News yesterday, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said his party were "very, very clear" on their support for victims of historical abuse.

"We are very clear that the report should be implemented, that the families should be paid compensation," he said.

"Michelle O'Neill made an intervention in the last week calling for the families to be paid compensation and a number of times on meeting James Brokenshire in my presence over the last few months, Michelle O'Neill has asked him to ensure that the victims receive compensation.

"Indeed in my presence she made the same case to Arlene Foster about two months ago.

"I have been making it very clear on the public record for some time."

In a statement after Mr Robinson's intervention, Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann added his voice to a "redress for HIA victims and survivors has been delayed long enough".

"We have given our support to the call by the victims and survivors of historic institutional abuse for a cross-party approach to offering appropriate redress, including an immediate financial payment and co-designed process for implementing other redress measures," he said.

"It is clear that this needs to happen sooner rather than later.

"Victims and survivors have been let down too many times and have waited long enough. I hope that all parties can quickly give their support to this call so the approach can be made."

When asked for a comment from Mr Brokenshire last night, an NIO spokesman said: "After a meeting with victims and survivors last week, the Secretary of State clearly stated that the UK government condemns any form of abuse of children, and any tolerance by people in positions of authority of such activity by others, is abhorrent.

"The Secretary of State said the response to the HIA report needed to be a priority for government and that he hoped the Executive would be restored as soon as possible to consider recommendation on redress and support for victims and survivors of child abuse."

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