Almost two years after the HIAI handed its recommendations to the First and Deputy First Ministers, the Civil Service staff responsible for the implementation of those recommendations have released three pieces of draft legislation for consultation. An extended period of 12 weeks has been set aside for the consultation period to allow parties from around the world and individuals who had been in residential care to respond.The link to that draft legislation is https://www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/consultations/historical-institutional-abuse-consultation
There will also be face to face engagement at public meetings in Belfast and Derry. The Londonderry consultation will be in the Maldron Hotel from 4pm to 6 pm on 5 December with the Belfast consultation the day before in the Clayton Hotel in Belfast between 4pm and 6 pm on 4 December.
David Sterling, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service said: “I have met with victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse on several occasions since being appointed Head of the Civil Service. I have heard harrowing personal accounts of the destructive impact the abuse has had on many people.
“Many of them feel that there is no escape and unfortunately that is something that will live with them for a very long time. They have told me that many years later they are still hurting, still suffering.”
David Sterling continued: “I have delivered on my undertaking given earlier in the year to victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse, that The Executive Office would prepare the necessary legislation to establish a Redress Board and a Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse.
“This has been a challenging and complex area of work, particularly in the absence of an Executive, however we owe it to the victims and survivors to do all we can for them. I urge anyone who has an interest to contribute to this consultation on the draft legislation.”
He added “I am committed to moving to implementation, as quickly as possible, once Ministers have taken the necessary decisions. I assured victims and survivors of this commitment when I met with their representatives today just before the consultation was officially launched.”
While new powers have been given to Civil Servants by the Secretary of State those powers do not allow the passing of legislation and so any final proposed legislation needed to implement the recommendations will require an new Executive or for the powers to be taken back by the Secretary of State and for legislation to be passed in Westminster.
The present proposals suggest three pieces of necessary legislation for a Commissioner for victims, a redress board and a compensation scheme. The latter two are likely to be joined together but the overall proposals are not yet finalised.
It is anticipated that, in the absence of an Executive, the Civil Servants will have mirrored the recommendations in the report prepared by Sir Anthony Hart with little deviation from that. Representatives of the various Victim and Survivor Groups have not welcomed the proposals believing they do not go far enough in addressing the needs of the former residents and will be actively responding to the draft legislation.
More information and details on how to respond are available on TEO’s website at: www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/HIA-consultation
Authored by Ciara McReynolds, lawyer, BLM Belfast