Foster to raise abuse victims’ plight with head of NI Civil Service

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DUP leader Arlene Foster is to raise the plight of victims of institutional abuse with the head of the Civil Service and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).

She met campaigners at Stormont on Monday.

A public inquiry led by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart recommended a compensation scheme be established for victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse over many decades in residential homes run primarily by religious orders.

The collapse of power-sharing meant the recommendations were never acted upon.

Mrs Foster said: “The victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse deserve to see progress following Sir Anthony Hart’s report in 2017.

“With the historical nature of these cases and time passing, the needs of the victims must be addressed.

“The scale of failure to protect our most vulnerable children is astonishing. The pain and suffering inflicted upon these victims represents a complete failure by the entire system.”

She added: “Children and young people were placed in homes with a certainty that they would be nurtured and cared for; instead that trust was betrayed.”

The DUP has been pressing the Government to put a decision-making structure in place to deal with issues around schools, hospitals and historical abuse victims.

Mrs Foster said: “Following this meeting, Nigel (Dodds) and I will be speaking with the Secretary of State, the Head of the Civil Service as well as the Chief Constable.

“It is important that in the absence of devolution, these victims are not forgotten.”

Victims spokeswoman Margaret McGuckin said it was an excellent meeting.

“We do believe they truly listened to us all and the heart-wrenching stories of their constituents.”

DUP deputy leader Mr Dodds said the first-hand account of victims was chilling.

“It is wrong that people who have suffered horrible abuse are being left in limbo because there is no Northern Ireland Executive in place.

“We want to see the Hart recommendations progressed so that victims can receive the help and support they need.

“At the very least, we should be able to have a pre-legislative consultation exercise.

“Having heard the accounts from abuse victims, it has reaffirmed our view that if Sinn Fein is going to continue boycotting the Assembly and Executive, then we need to have a decision-making mechanism in Westminster.

“We need a place where issues impacting on our schools, roads, hospitals and our historical institutional abuse victims can be advanced.”

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