Law to compensate survivors of residential child abuse in NI passed in Westminster

Over 5,000 people could be eligible for compensation

Survivors of child abuse at residential institutions in Northern Ireland will receive compensation after MPs rushed through a redress bill hours before the House of Commons broke up ahead of next month’s general election.

In an emotional statement, Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith said over 5,000 people could be eligible for compensation and urged all victims and survivors to apply to the redress board the legislation establishes.

“Whether you are part of a victims group or whether you have lived with their abuse silently for years, please make use of this redress scheme in this Bill,” he said.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, chaired by the late Anthony Hart, ended in 2017 with a report detailing widespread physical and sexual abuse of children in residential institutions run by religious, charitable and state organisations between 1922 and 1995.


“Who can imagine those children whose bodies were broken, but whose hearts and spirits were also broken—who suffered in a way that, please God, we will never, ever have to contemplate again?” Labour’s Stephen Pound said.

Sir Anthony recommended that all victims of historical institutional abuse should receive tax-free payments of between £7,500 and £100,000.

Because the Stormont institutions have been suspended, legislation at Westminster was required to set up a redress board. Responding to pressure from Northern Ireland’s MPs, the government moved the bill through Parliament with unprecedented speed, passing all its stages in the Commons on Tuesday afternoon.

“Many victims are old and ill. They have not only had their childhood and lives blighted, but they have had to wait, year after year, for the child abuse and what happened to them to be recognised,” Mr Smith said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times