Institutional abuse redress scheme could cost £20m

Northern Executive urged to act quickly to compensate victims after HIA Inquiry

Government said it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the findings of the HIA Inquiry before they are published in January. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Government said it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the findings of the HIA Inquiry before they are published in January. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

 

Thousands of people who were in residential institutions in Northern Ireland would be entitled to individual payments of at least £20,000 if a proposed redress scheme published today were adopted by the Northern Executive.

The figure is included in detailed proposals for a compensation scheme, drawn up by accountants at the request of victims’ groups. The groups want the Executive to set up such a scheme now that the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry, has concluded its hearings.

The scheme, if accepted by the Executive, would cost at least £20 million. The victims and their representatives argue that if it were adopted, some £10 million would be saved in legal fees.

“The Executive Office should move with urgency to consult with victims and to then set up the redress scheme. We have waited for justice for long enough,” said Jon McCourt of Survivors North West.

The Executive is yet to decide on what compensation it would offer victims. The Executive Office of the First and Deputy First Minister has said it is sensitive to the views of victims but that it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the findings of the HIA Inquiry before they are published in January.

Inquiry

Anthony Hart

The inquiry also investigated the circumstances surrounding the sending of child migrants from Northern Ireland to Australia, and the activities of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

Some 524 alleged victims of abuse at the homes made applications to the inquiry.

Under the proposed redress scheme all 524 would receive a “common experience payment of at least £10,000”.

Patrick Corrigan, head of Amnesty Northern Ireland which is supporting the victims’ groups, said each person would receive an extra £3,000 for every year they spent in the institutions. In some cases this could be 10 years or more.

Extreme cases

The costs of the proposed redress scheme are detailed in a report commissioned from Quarter Chartered Accountants by the Panel of Experts on Redress, an independent initiative made up of survivor groups, individual survivors, academics, lawyers and human rights organisations.

Margaret McGuckin of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse said it was now up to Ministers to deliver for victims. “We suffered then and have suffered the consequences through our lives ever since . . . We shouldn’t have to suffer on into our old age as well.”

Meanwhile, the Garda is assisting the inquiry in relation to the activities of Brendan Smyth after the Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan sought to ensure that data protection regulations did not prevent such co-operation.

The information being sought relates to what, in the 1970s, the Garda knew about Smyth who went on to abuse scores of children over four decades.

“There is a substantial public interest in enabling information to be provided to the HIA Inquiry given the nature of its work,” said a spokesman for the Department of Justice.