Abuse survivors have called on Secretary of State Karen Bradley to resign after talks to deliver redress broke down and the British MP suggested compensation could be delayed for another two years.
Victims were however told that if the NI Executive was reformed then it could be achieved in 5 to 6 weeks which they believe amounts to “emotional blackmail” on the part of Mrs Bradley.
Jon McCourt, chairman of the Survivors North West group, said the Secretary of State (SoS) “needs to get a grip” after the disastrous meeting at Stormont Castle on Monday.
Speaking to the Derry News yesterday, he said: “Talk about a useless Secretary of State, good God, Peter Brooke (SoS for NI in 1989) decided to offer his resignation after singing the wrong song on the wrong day on the Late Late Show.
“Karen Bradley has made so many gaffes that she makes Peter Brook look like a star.
“I wouldn’t have said this last week until I found out what cards she was going to play, but Karen Bradley needs to go.
“And I can think of only one person on the Conservative benches who could do this job, Andrew Murrison, the chairperson of the NI Affairs Committee would make a good SoS because he knows this place and has been involved with it for the past twenty years.”
Senior conservatives are eager to oust Prime Minister Theresa May as soon as possible and the Derry man believes Karen Bradley will also step down from her role as Secretary of State at that time.
He therefore urged her to “leave something behind as a legacy” so that she could say, “I achieved one thing, literally one thing, in the North before I left.”
Mr McCourt also encouraged voters in the upcoming European elections to press candidates on the need to resolve this issue because it could end up in before the European Court of Human Rights.
“If the High Court in Belfast says the SoS hasn’t got the power that means we’ve exhausted the total domestic remedy that’s available to us here in the north. And if it means we have to go to the Supreme Court in London to have access to Europe then let’s do it.”
Numerous victims have passed away prior to, and since, the findings of the Hart Inquiry were published in January 2017 which recommended compensation for victims.
Campaigners have therefore demanded the application process be opened to allow initial advance payments to be made to those who are 70 years of age or older and to anyone suffering from a life threatening or terminal illness who may not live long enough to apply to the statutory redress scheme - as the Scottish Abuse Inquiry has done.
It had been hoped that answers could be provided when victims, along with representatives from Amnesty International, met with Mrs Bradley on Monday.
In reality, victims are more disillusioned than ever with the process and left feeling that Mrs Bradley was “emotionally blackmailing” them in an effort to force what Mr McCourt described as a “coalition of the unwilling” back round the table for talks.
“There are other outstanding issues to be dealt with before the Executive is restored and I won’t be influencing any of those issues, Irish Language, the Human Rights Act, marriage equality. That’s for them to do, what I’m saying is that the issue we’re speaking about has the total support of the six parties,” he added.
There were heated exchanges at the meeting, Mr McCourt said, when it became apparent that no progress would be made.
This week’s discussions focused on four key areas, including whether a standard payment to all victims should be £7,500, as suggested in the HIA report, or £10,000 as a majority of respondents to a consultation on draft legislation recommended – with an additional premium of £3,000 for each subsequent year spent at an institution.
The six Stormont parties had agreed to send a joint letter to Mrs Bradley which answered the initial four questions she raised.
However, shortly before she met victims, the Secretary of State said she wanted the parties to answer a further 11 questions.
“She’s playing a game, to pass responsibility over to The Executive Office (TEO) for the questions that she said came down. I actually told her, ‘as soon as the meeting is finished I’m going up the hill to find out what’s going on’, because we had already spoken to The Executive Office.
“She needed clarity, she got clarity.”
Child migrants who were taken from the city in 1947 to Australia, South Africa and Canada are in a position where they will receive £20,000 in compensation through a separate independent child abuse inquiry at Westminster before survivors in Northern Ireland.
“We’re in the ridiculous position that people who were stolen from this city in 1947 have already been compensated through a Westminster scheme and those of us who were fortunate enough not to be taken out of here are still waiting on Westminster to do something for us,” Mr McCourt concluded.
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