It has been announced that discussions between the political parties in Northern Ireland and the Head of Civil Service, David Sterling, have made some progress on the approach to the recommendations made by Sir Anthony Hart following the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI).
The HIAI made a number of recommendations in 2017 but the political impasse in NI has meant that nothing has happened in regard to the implementation of those recommendations. Earlier this year a consultation process on draft legislation generated a significant number of responses.
Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, raised a number of questions for the political parties to address and it seems that discussions have lead to a position the parties are all happy to accept. The exact content of that position paper are not known but it is believed a draft letter has been prepared and will be sent to the Secretary of State by each of the parties. These discussions were part of the current discussions aimed at restoring the devolved administration but it seems that the parties have accepted they are not in a position to deliver and wish the matter to be dealt with in Westminster.
The Secretary of State has come under pressure and criticism as a result of the delays and has denied that she is deliberately delaying the implementation indicating that she needed the input of the parties as a guide to the way forward. It is likely this letter will be seen as the response she has requested and her next steps will be watched closely by the various victim and survivor groups.
Immediate steps are unlikely in the face of the Brexit situation, the new Tory leadership battle and the imminent summer recess for Parliament.
In addition to issues such as a memorial and apologies the HIAI recommended a Redress Scheme with figures ranging from £7500-£100,000. The new position is likely to recommend a starting point of £10,000 rather than the £7500.
A further recommendation was the appointment of a Commissioner to act as the advocate for Survivors. This post cannot be created as the recommendation was that it be set up on a statutory basis and be independent of the Executive and so the post will require the Executive (or Westminster) to pass the necessary legislation. It is expected that an “interim advocate” will be appointed shortly and that this person can act as a focus for victims to address their issues.
Written by Ciara McReynolds at BLM