The leaders of the main parties in Northern Ireland have signed a letter urging the UK Government to release compensation for survivors of historical institutional abuse.
Sinn Féin’s leader in the North and DUP leader Arlene Foster are among the six representatives to have signed the letter to the UKs Northern Secretary Karen Bradley.
It has been nearly two-and-a-half years since Northern Ireland’s Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry officially recommended the introduction of a redress scheme which would see survivors paid between £7,500 and £100,000 (€8,590 and €114,500) in compensation.
The inquiry’s recommendations have never been acted upon due to the impasse over power-sharing in the North.
Ms Bradley today faced strong criticism after she told victim’s groups that the issue would be dealt with as part of the ongoing talks to restore devolved Government at Stormont.
Ms O’Neill said she was ‘shamefully turning victims of abuse into political pawns’ and warned that it was “morally and politically wrong” to make the compensation a matter for the negotiations.
“That is shameful,” she said. “Karen Bradley needs to start putting the needs of victims and survivors before her own political priorities and immediately put in place the required legal and financial framework to assist them.”
Compensation for victims of Historical Institutional Abuse should not be a matter for the political negotiations and Karen Bradley is morally and politically wrong to attempt to make it so. https://t.co/Zy6FSUkEZq
— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) May 15, 2019
DUP leader Arlene Foster said the delay was a “shame and a disgrace.”
She said the UK Government has a “moral duty to meet this financial commitment” in the absence of devolution.
She also called for devolution to be “restored immediately so matters like this compensation can be taken forward by” Stormont Ministers.
Six party leaders call on Karen Bradley to compensate abuse victims ⬇ pic.twitter.com/NrebvsJaQ7
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) May 16, 2019
In the letter this evening, the political leaders noted that David Sterling, the head of the North’s civil service, had formally asked Ms Bradley to progress legislation through Westminster to compensate victims.
They note that Mr Sterling had stressed the need to bring the matter to a successful conclusion “particularly given the age profiles of those involved.”
“The parties share the view that despite ongoing talks aimed at restoring the Assembly, the recommendations of the Hart Inquiry should be addressed without any further delay and a suitable legal framework put in place to begin addressing the needs of victims.”
Dozens of survivors have died without receiving the compensation that was recommended.