Northern Ireland

Historical abuse compensation: Call for MPs to pass legislation

A sign that reads: Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The HIA Inquiry heard evidence from people who spent their childhood in residential homes and institutions

Compensation for victims of Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) should progress as quickly as possible through Parliament, a committee has heard.

It follows a vote by MPs to legalise same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland if devolution is not restored by 21 October.

Payments to victims were recommended by the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry in 2017.

But power sharing at Stormont collapsed days later and it stalled.

Two months ago, the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said she could not take the matter through Parliament.

She later held talks with the Stormont political parties to reach agreement on issues relating to the proposed legislation.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Karen Bradley has told victims she wants the matter to be resolved as quickly as possible

It is understood the Executive Office is redrafting the legislation to then submit it back to Mrs Bradley.

Appearing before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Jon McCourt from the group Survivors North West said he felt "the mould has been broken".

The secretary of state should have the newly redrafted legislation on HIA redress by 15 July and campaigners want it to be passed through Parliament before the summer recess, he added.

Mr McCourt was asked how the legislation should proceed by Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Gregory Campbell, in light of Tuesday's Commons votes on abortion and same-sex marriage.

MPs had also backed an amendment requiring the government to submit progress reports to Parliament on HIA redress.

'Morally offensive'

Campaigner Mr McCourt said the consequence of Stormont collapsing meant victims effectively had "nowhere else to turn" but Westminster.

His wish is for the redress legislation to be be fast-tracked through Parliament, he added.

Image caption Amnesty International's Patrick Corrigan and Jon McCourt from Survivors North West gave evidence to MPs

Prof Patricia Lundy from Ulster University told MPs there was no reason why Parliament should not implement the legislation and if it did not proceed before recess on 25 July MPs should explain why.

Lady Hermon, the independent unionist MP for North Down, said it was "morally offensive" to deny victims compensation any longer, adding she would support the law coming through Westminster.

The issue was later raised during prime minister's questions in the Commons.

Conservative MP and NI Affairs Committee member Maria Caulfield asked the prime minister to commit the government to bring compensation laws through Parliament before the summer recess.

Theresa May replied that as the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill proceeds through Parliament, the government would "look carefully" at HIA redress.

Tributes to inquiry chairman

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee also paid tribute to Sir Anthony Hart, who chaired the HIA Inquiry, after he died on Tuesday, aged 73.

Witnesses said they were "deeply indebted" to Sir Anthony for overseeing the inquiry and letting victims have a voice.

The HIA Inquiry was set up by Stormont leaders to investigate allegations of abuse in children's residential homes run by religious, charitable and state organisations.

Its remit covered a 73-year period from the foundation of Northern Ireland in 1922 through to 1995.

The inquiry made a number of recommendations, including compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.

Since the inquiry ended two years ago, 30 survivors of historical institutional abuse have died.

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