Historical abuse victims dying before compensation agreed
March 2, 2016
Around 50 victims of historical abuse in Northern Ireland have died in the years since a campaign for truth and redress began, MLAs have been told.
A leading victims’ advocate highlighted the numbers of people who had passed away as she criticised Stormont’s failure to provide interim compensation payments to those who suffered abuse before an ongoing inquiry had concluded.
Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart is leading what is one of the UK’s largest inquiries into physical, sexual and emotional harm to children at homes run by the church, state and voluntary organisations.
His Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) inquiry was formally established in January 2013 by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) to investigate child abuse which occurred in residential institutions over a 73-year period from 1922 to 1995.
The investigative work is not scheduled to finish until the summer, with a report due to be submitted to Stormont ministers next year.
But Sir Anthony has already announced that he will be recommending to OFMDFM that compensation should be paid to victims.
Margaret McGuckin, spokeswoman for the Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia) charity, told members of the OFMDFM committee that the Executive had let them down.
She estimated around 50 victims had died since Savia started its work eight years ago.
Ms McGuckin said Sir Anthony’s indication that compensation should be paid had placed the onus on the Executive to act.
“It was well applauded and accepted,” she said.
“What he said was for the government here – to say ‘get a move on, no longer can you say we can’t pre-empt the end of the inquiry’ cos that’s all we’re hearing.
“He is saying without a doubt there was historic abuse, that’s why he said – it was unprecedented – that one of the recommendations will be there should be compensation and I believe he said it to give the time and space to get something set up.”
Committee chair Mike Nesbitt has asked how many victims had died in the last eight years.
“It could be 50,” Ms McGuckin said.
She added: “I know how old the people are and how affected and mentally unstable and unwell they were.
“I have promised them something will happen and go back to them and they are all half giving up, they’ve just given up and (are saying) ‘who can we trust’.”
She continued: “They are disillusioned, they have lost trust.”
Ms McGuckin appeared before the committee alongside Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan.
The HIA is only hearing testimony from those who were under-18 at the time they suffered abuse. That excludes older victims, such as young women abused in Magdalene Laundry-type institutions.
Amnesty has been campaigning for the probe to be widened or for other investigations to be set up to examine the evidence from those victims.
Mr Corrigan said: “There seems to have been a view taken (within OFMDFM) at some point that there would be no decisions taken on any further inquiries until the HIA inquiry is done and dusted and out of the way.
“Victims and certainly Amnesty International have never been able to understand the logic of that.”