Victims of historical institutional abuse could receive compensation by the end of the year if Westminster take the necessary steps to pass redress legislation.
A meeting to address the subject of historical institutional abuse took place at Westminster yesterday morning, July 10.
Witnesses, Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International UK, Professor Patricia Lundy, Ulster University, Gerry McCann of Rosetta Trust, and Jon McCourt of Survivors North West were all adamant that legislation must be passed through Westminster as soon as possible.
Mr McCourt started off by speaking of his sadness at the passing of Sir Anthony Hart. He was the man appointed in 2012 by the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister as chair of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.
“He was a man of honesty, of integrity, honour and a very, very humble man who efficiently and effectively ran an inquiry for eighteen months and encouraged people to speak who never had a voice. I think for that we are deeply indebted, he will be sadly missed, and on behalf of us, we’d like to extend our sympathy to his family and colleagues.”
Insensitive comments made by the man projected to be the next British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, could not go unanswered as far as Mr McCourt was concerned.
In response to Mr Johnson’s suggestion that money spent investigating historic child abuse was wasted or “spaffed up the wall”, he said: “I honestly don’t believe that anybody can understand the pain and the hurt that victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse felt when the right honourable member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip said that the type of engagement that we have been involved in for the last eleven years, the type of engagement that the independent inquiry into child abuse is engaged in right now here in this parliament, that that is nothing but spaffing or piffling money up against the wall.
“And at the earliest opportunity I want to address this committee and remind them the right honourable, and I would say for me, was neither right nor honourable in that particular remark.
“An apology is owed. To all victims of historical institutional abuse.”
With the collapse of the Executive in Northern Ireland victims have nowhere else to turn aside from Westminster.
Over two and a half years they have tried to persuade two Secretaries of State for NI to move legislation forward to no avail. They’ve been told the SoS had no authority to do so and that the timing wasn’t right.
Given decisions around same-sex marriage and abortion legislation were voted through this week, it is hoped that similar action can be taken to fast-track redress legislation for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse.
The meeting heard that one of those in the public gallery has waited over 70 years to be compensated for the abuse he/she suffered. If legislation was promptly passed the meeting was told that payments could be made to victims before the end of 2019.
“The opportunity is before this parliament, this House, this committee, to put things right and it can be done as a tribute to the work that Sir Anthony Hart did,” said Mr McCourt.
The Derry man believes that the state, and religious institutions, should be made to pay and that taxpayers shouldn’t foot the entire bill. He said religious orders responsible should’ve been forced to freeze their assets, yet a number of them have been allowed to sell vast swathes of land despite members from those institutions being convicted of the sexual abuse of children.
One of the religious orders in Derry sold a “massive building” to a housing association. Recouping money from those institutions will be harder as a result, he added.
Photo: Jon McCourt (right) alongside Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International at inquiry in Westminster 10/7/19.
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