Northern Ireland news

Abuse campaigner fears redress legislation could take more than a year

Victims' campaigner Margaret McGuckin. Picture by Ronan McGrade, Pacemaker

A CAMPAIGNER for victims of institutional abuse has said she fears legislation to set up a redress scheme could take more than a year following correspondence from the Northern Ireland Office.

Margaret McGuckin from Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia) said she was appalled to read the minutes of meetings secretary of state Karen Bradley had with victims' groups last month.

On Tuesday, Northern Ireland's main parties wrote to Mrs Bradley urging her to pass compensation legislation through Westminster as quickly as possible.

Minutes seen by The Irish News, which were distributed to victims' groups late on Tuesday, say Mrs Bradley told the groups that even if the new law is introduced through Westminster it is "unlikely to be a quick process due to the nature of the issue".

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She told them the process of creating new legislation was lengthy "due to the parliamentary timetable, process, and the fact that parliamentarians would want to intensely scrutinise the legislation both in the Commons and the Lords", the minutes read.

When groups asked about similar Westminster laws, including the bill to cut renewable energy subsidies following the botched RHI scheme, which were quickly passed through Parliament, Mrs Bradley told them that "unlike other issues which required a change to an existing programme or legislation - HIA would require primary legislation to establish an entirely new scheme to assess claims and make payments."

She told groups that the Modern Slavery Bill also had broad cross-party support but it took over a year for that legislation to be passed.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry recommended compensation payments to victims more than two years ago. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press.

The Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry recommended compensation payments to victims more than two years ago. The scheme would have seen pay-outs of between £7,500 and £100,000.

The inquiry also made other recommendations including bespoke care packages for victims and a memorial to be built in the grounds of Stormont.

Ms McGuckin said she was appalled by the "insensitive" document.

She said she had not requested it and questioned why it was sent just hours after Mrs Bradley received a letter from the north's main parties.

"It was like a bombshell. I have made an urgent appeal to MLAs to explain what is happening," she said.

"It's putting a dampener on everything again.

"Things have to be done.

"They need to give us some explanation as to why they sent that."

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