Northern Ireland news

Karen Bradley 'determined to deliver' for abuse victims but says Stormont parties must answer questions

Secretary of State Karen Bradley is facing calls to resign from survivors of institutional abuse. Picture by Peter Byrne, Press Association

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has said she is prepared to legislate to compensate historic abuse victims, but only when local politicians answer key questions about the stalled redress scheme.

Commenting on a public furore around her decision to add the issue to the agenda of the powersharing talks, Mrs Bradley said some "fundamental questions" had arisen during a public consultation exercise on draft legislation.

"We cannot go forward until we have answered those questions," she said.

"I want to get on with this with the utmost urgency but those questions need answering and part of that is the political parties in Northern Ireland helping to answer those questions."

Mrs Bradley was speaking after a leading campaigner called on her to resign over her failure to progress payments for abuse victims.

Pressed on the issue during a visit to the Balmoral Show near Lisburn, Mrs Bradley added: "You need to understand that to get legislation through Westminster, which I am prepared to do, these questions will need to be answered before that can happen."

Mrs Bradley rejected the claim that she was using abuse victims as a "political football" to try to force the Stormont parties into a deal to restore powersharing.

"I am determined to deliver for those victims," she said.

Mrs Bradley also revealed that she met with the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Hart on this morning to seek his input.

"I have asked him would he work with my officials also so we can deliver," she said.

Mrs Bradley suggested the fate of the redress scheme did not rest on the outcome of the overall talks process.

"To be absolutely clear, this is not part of a talks process, this is a piece of work so we can answer the fundamental questions and get on and deliver for those people that I desperately want to deliver for," she said.

The Conservative MP insisted she was prepared to move the legislation at Westminster.

"I am prepared to legislate wherever is the best place to do that and if that is Westminster I am prepared to do that, but I cannot do that until these fundamental questions have been answered," she said.

"I have asked the political parties if they can work on that, I have asked Sir Anthony Hart if he can work with my officials on that.

"We need to find a way to answer those questions and that is what I am determined to do as quickly as possible."

Mrs Bradley said the consultation exercise, which was overseen by the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service David Sterling, had raised questions about the "remit, role and responsibilities" of the redress board that will administer the compensation.

She said if those issues were not resolved victims may face an even longer wait for compensation.

"I want them to have the redress they rightly deserve but I cannot do that until these fundamental questions are resolved because we need to get this right," she said.

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