Two groups to contribute to abuse compensation

1 month ago
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A compensation scheme was set up for victims and survivors of historical child abuse in 2019

By Jayne McCormack

BBC News NI political correspondent

Two out of the six institutions involved in negotiations with Stormont over redress for victims of historical child abuse intend to make an interim payment in the "coming weeks".

Barnardo's and the Good Shepherd Sisters are willing to make an interim contribution, BBC News NI has learned.

A compensation scheme was set up for victims and survivors in 2019.

But religious orders and other institutions where abuse took place have yet to make any financial contributions to offset part of the compensation being paid out by Stormont.

Although the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) recommended that institutions should be asked to make an "appropriate financial contribution" to the overall cost of redress, they cannot be compelled to do so.

In 2019, the then-head of the civil service at Stormont, David Sterling, said the government would "pursue" churches and others for money to offset part of the HIA compensation.

He then wrote to six institutions, including religious orders, about compensation payments in 2019, but to no avail.

An independent facilitator, Paul Sweeney, was appointed in 2021 by ministers to try and take forward negotiations with the institutions.

Stormont has paid out almost £85m since applications for redress opened in 2020, but the scheme is due to close next year.

The Executive Office, which oversees the issue, said it would continue to engage with the institutions about a "final payment" following the closure of the redress board.

But it told BBC News NI: "Two institutions, Barnardo's and the Good Shepherd Sisters, have indicated their intention to make an interim contribution.

"We are continuing to engage with both institutions on receiving this payment in the coming weeks.

"Constructive discussions on appropriate contributions from the other four institutions are ongoing."

The Sisters of Nazareth said it was "continuing to engage" but it would "not comment on the ongoing discussions" with the Executive Office.

'Lip service'

Alliance assembly member and chair of the Executive Office committee, Paula Bradshaw, said a "firm timeline" needed to be put in place for payments.

"We know the independent facilitator has been working with the religious orders and institutions for a number of years now," she told BBC News NI.

"That two of them are willing to make a contribution is progress, but we would like to see a firm action plan of how that money is going to be brought forward and by whom."

She said it was not enough for institutions to pay "lip service" and to ensure there was no cap imposed.

"It's not just money in the short term, but as a contribution in longer terms for services that victims and survivors require," she added.

Last week, a Stormont committee heard concerns about the financial process from victims and survivors.

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