Northern Ireland news

Abuse victims welcome assurances on redress from Secretary of State

Margaret McGuckin and members of SAVIA attend a meeting with new Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith.

Victims and survivors of historical child abuse have welcomed assurances by Secretary of State Julian Smith that legislation to implement redress in hundreds of cases will now be dealt with through Westminster.

The recommendations of the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry, including compensation and a care package for victims, were delivered by the late Sir Anthony Hart in January 2017.

However, the collapse of powersharing left victims of historic child abuse in a state of limbo.

Mr Smith met with victims groups yesterday and assured them that legislation required would now be introduced at Westminster.

"I think the Hart report reveals the most devastating indictment on how children were cared for," he said.

"It is absolutely my priority to ensure we do deliver on the Hart report. I have written to colleagues in London and Westminster to try to get this moving as quickly as possible."

Margaret McGuckin of Savia, who met with Mr Smith, said the meeting was the "positive news that people needed to hear".

"He (Julian Smith) had done his homework. He was informed about the outstanding issues, he knew about all the lobbying and campaigning that has been done.

"While he couldn't give us an exact date he recognised that we have support of all parties locally, at Westminster and the House of Lords and so the legislation should pass unhindered

"This feels different finally like a turning point for our people, who have been under so much pressure. This positive news has put a smile back on all our faces," she added.

Mr Smith met a second campaign group, Survivors Together, who said they found the new Northern Ireland Secretary "very welcoming".

Spokesman Marty Adams said: "We had a very positive meeting and we came away in a more upbeat mood than we did with the previous Secretary of State.

"A lot of issues were raised and we can only hope that the issues raised produce fruit in the weeks ahead.

"It's our view that this is the type of Secretary of State we can do business with and I hope for the wider political situation here in Northern Ireland that the main political parties can do business with him as well."

Sinn Féin MLA Linda Dillon said "his cannot be another false dawn".

Saying Mr Smith "must follow through on his commitments to people who have been consistently let down by the British government".

"Political parties and victims' groups have worked hard together to reach agreement on draft legislation – we all have a responsibility to deliver for victims and survivors", she added.

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