Derry child migrant Peggy Gibson: ‘I may not live to see justice done’

Peggy Gibson (middle row wearing glasses) with the other girls transported to Australia in 1948.
Peggy Gibson (middle row wearing glasses) with the other girls transported to Australia in 1948.

A Derry woman who was just seven years old when she was sent to Australia as part of the controversial “child migrant scheme” says she’s worried she may not live long enough to see justice done.

Peggy Gibson, who is now aged 77, was separated from her family and transported to Australia in 1948 where, she says, she suffered horrific abuse.

Peggy Gibson pictured during a visit to Derry in the early 1990s.

Peggy Gibson pictured during a visit to Derry in the early 1990s.

Originally from Quarry Street in the Brandywell but now living in Melbourne, Peggy says it’s important that her abuse is acknowledged during her lifetime.

Her lawyers have written to the Northern Ireland Executive asking it to ensure that a redress scheme recommended recently by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA) is implemented with “special priority” given to elderly claimants.

The Inquiry, chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart, has recommended that children who were transported to Australia in the 1940s and 50s be given compensation for the trauma they suffered.

The Inquiry says those sent to Australia under the Child Migrants Scheme should receive a special payment in addition to any other payment which they might be awarded by a HIA Redress Board. This special payment, insisted the Inquiry, should be of a sum sufficient to recognise “the injustice they suffered as young children by being sent to a far away land and losing their sense of identity as a result”.

Sir Anthony’s team has recommended that the maximum amount of compensation payable should not exceed £80,000,

except for those who were sent to Australia, where the maximum payment should not exceed £100,000.

However, political uncertainty at Stormont has left a major question mark over when this will happen.

Peggy Gibson’s lawyers say that, while the 77-year-old welcomes the report of the HIA, she is concerned “she may not live to achieve the justice and acknowledgement she deserves.”

The letter adds: “Whilst we recognise that Sir Anthony Hart has recommended that spouses and children of victims of abuse who have passed away since the inquiry was announced should be eligible for compensation, it is important to our client that her abuse is acknowlweged during her lifetime.”

Included in Peggy Gibson’s letter to the NI Executive is a photo of the 15 girls who were transported to Australia with her nearly seventy years ago.

“Our client instructs us that, to her knowledge, only five of these girls, including our client, are still living today.

“Our client has asked that the Executive urgently consider her plight and the plight of other elderly victims of historical abuse and ensure that a redress scheme, as recommended by Sir Anthony Hart, is implemented with special priority to be given to elderly claiamnts, again as recommended by Sir Anthony.”