Brendan McAllister was appointed Interim Advocate for the victims of abuse in residential care and has had a difficult time in his few months in post. He has dealt with the new Secretary of State, the stresses caused by the absence of an Assembly, the conflicts within the political arena as a result of Brexit, the falling of the legislation intended to implement the necessary arrangements when Parliament was prorogued and now he faces a different issue.
Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Chief Justice for NI, has said that it is “shocking” that 2 ½ years after the final report of the HIAI, lead by Sir Anthony Hart who sadly died earlier this year without seeing his recommendations implemented, was released there has been no progress in implementing those recommendations.
Along with recommendations on apologies, a memorial and the appointment of a Commissioner for survivors and victims the report recommended a Redress Scheme. While an interim advocate has been appointed to assist the survivors in pressing their agenda forward there has been no progress in the creation of a Redress Scheme.
The Department of Justice has produced figures which show that the average (median) time taken for processing cases where the main aspect was a sexual offence is 667 days. This is in comparison to an average of 167 days in all other case or as low as 138 days for cases where the offences relate to public order offences.
The time is calculated from the point when the case was either reported to or detected by the PSNI until the date when the case was finally disposed of at court.
The revelations of historic abuse in Fermanagh following investigations by the Impartial Reporter’s deputy editor, Rodney Edwards, continue and the Orange Order has now been brought to the fore.
The number of victims is growing as is the number of identified abusers. The PSNI have been investigating the complaints and specialist officers from the Public Protection Unit have been assigned to conduct these enquiries.
Following his appointment to the Northern Ireland Office, Julian Smith has had meetings with different victims campaign groups over the ongoing stalemate in Northern Ireland. These meetings seem to have been more upbeat than previous meetings with his predecessor Karen Bradley and the victims groups have expressed confidence in the new Secretary of State.
Victims and survivors had lost confidence in Ms Bradley and had gone as far as to call for her resignation. They remain unhappy that the recommendations of the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry have not progressed into any tangible form over 2 ½ years since they were presented to the Executive.
In Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, an investigation by Impartial Reporter journalist Rodney Edwards has resulted in over 60 people disclosing that they were abused. They have alleged abuse against a number of people, with 12 women alleging abuse against a former primary school principal. The story has taken a greater prominence with the intervention of Lord Morrow, a DUP peer. Lord Morrow had met with one of the complainants in 2016 and went to the police with her as a support.
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.