The HIAI made recommendations in their final report presented to the NI Executive in January 2017. Shortly after the Executive collapsed over a renewable heat scheme and has not returned. Divisions between the main parties seem as wide now as they were then and there is little prospect of an imminent return.
A proposed draft of the necessary legislation to implement the HIAI recommendations was completed towards the end of 2018 and a consultation process completed this year. There were a number of core issues addressed by the former residents both individually and through their support groups with the main contention being an increase in the basic award or “common experience” payment levels.
It is understood now that David Sterling, the head of the Civil Service in NI has written to the Secretary of State enclosing the now complete draft of the legislation with proposed amendments.
The recent amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill to introduce same sex marriage and widen access to abortion in NI and to implement a fortnightly review report (in an effort to prevent proroguing of Parliament over a No Deal Brexit) will have increased the pressure on Secretary of State to act.
Only a couple of months ago the then Secretary of State said she could not “simply take the matter through Parliament”. This does not seem to sit squarely with the recent developments which many have seen as politically expedient and have been criticised by many as a challenge to the constitutional position. The appointment of Brendan McAllister as an interim advocate for the former residents will also create a focal point for pressure to act on the draft legislation.
With Cabinet changes and Parliament going into recess on the 25 July no step was taken to progress this. With the Brexit deadline date on the horizon when Parliament returns in the Autumn it is likely to be a difficult time for all concerned.
As things stand pressure will continue to grow from the former residents to implement the legislation and it is anticipated the Secretary of State will continue to prevaricate. That could trigger the re-opening of Judicial Review proceedings in NI and so the story is far from over.
Written by Ciara McReynolds at BLM