Northern Ireland

Two institutions could make payment to Stormont within weeks over historical abuse

Barnardo’s and the Good Shepherd Sister are reported to be moving closer to making interim payments to Stormont

Margaret McGuckin (front right), of victims’ group Savia, speaks to the media in the Great Hall at Stormont
Margaret McGuckin (front right), of victims’ group Savia, speaks to the media in the Great Hall at Stormont. It has now been reported that two out of six institutions implicated in historical abuse are preparing to make interim payments in the coming weeks. (Brian Lawless/PA)

Compensation for some victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland could be moving closer, with reports that two out of six institutions negotiation with Stormont could make an interim payment within weeks.

The BBC report that Barnardo’s and the Good Shephard Sisters have indicated they will proceed with the payments.

The compensation scheme was established in 2019 after a report from the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in 2017.

It revealed the extent of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at former homes run by the state, church and charities from 1922 to 1995.

There is no indication as yet that religious orders or other institutions will make financial contributions to offset the compensation being paid from Stormont.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) recommended that institutions make an “appropriate financial contribution,” they are not obliged to do so.

The former head of the civil service in Stormont, David Sterling, had written to all six institutions in 2019 to pursue payments but there was ultimately no movement.

Two years later, an independent facilitator named Paul Sweeney was appointed to move forward the negotiations.

Stormont has nearly paid out £85m since the redress scheme opened in 2020, which is due to close next year.

It will still be possible after this period for the Executive Office, who oversees the process, to press the institutions about making a “final payment”.

In a statement to the BBC, a spokesperson said: “Two institutions, Barnardo’s and the Good Shepherd Sisters, have indicated their intention to make an interim contribution.

“We are continuing to engage with both institutions on receiving this payment in the coming weeks.

“Constructive discussions on appropriate contributions from the other four institutions are ongoing.”

The Sisters of Nazareth have said it was still engaging with the process, but would not comment further on the discussions with the Executive Office.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw chairs the Executive Office committee.

“We know the independent facilitator has been working with the religious orders and institutions for a number of years now,” she said.

“That two of them are willing to make a contribution is progress, but we would like to see a firm action plan of how that money is going to be brought forward and by whom.”

She also said it was not enough for money in the short term, but for a longer term commitment to meet the services that victims require.

Abuse victim and campaigner Jon McCourt, chairman of Survivors North West
Abuse victim and campaigner Jon McCourt, chairman of Survivors North West (Liam McBurney/PA)

Last week the chairman of the Survivors North West group, Jon McCourt, had expressed his frustration at the length of time it had taken for the institutions to contribute.

“We believe we are beyond the point of asking these institutions to make arrangements to meet their financial obligations or asking them again to make an appropriate financial contribution,” he said.

“Any contributions should not just be viewed through the fiscal lens, but should also be significantly punitive to reflect the harms done and acknowledge the pain and suffering of victims and survivors.”