Council backs urgent action on abuse redress

Jon McCourt (Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press)
Jon McCourt (Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press)

Campaigning victims of institutional abuse received a spontaneous round of applause from local Councillors as they unanimously passed a new motion calling for urgent action on redress.

Harrowing details of what local victims of institutional abuse had endured were imparted at a Council meeting on Thursday evening, which was attended by members of North West Survivors’ Group sitting in the public gallery.

Councillor Mickey Cooper.

Councillor Mickey Cooper.

Sinn Féin Councillor Mickey Cooper raised the issue by tabling a motion calling on the Secretary of State Karen Bradley to immediately bring forward legislation that will deliver on the amended recommendations contained in the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Report “including financial compensation and an apology from government for the hurt and pain caused to children placed in various institutions and homes around the North as reported in the HIA Inquiry Report released by Sir Anthony Hart on January 20, 2017.”

Detailing the decade-long campaign by survivors, Colr. Cooper said those who had suffered abuse both here and those shipped away to Australia as children had been repeatedly let down.

He described the Hart Report as a “damning indictment of the system of care that failed miserably through abuse and mismanagement to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society”. “In ten volumes,” he said, “it catalogued decades of abuse and neglect in all of its forms.”

Colr. Cooper said the Secretary of State has stated repeatedly that she wants to see this resolved. “The ball is now in her court,” he said.

Pledging his party’s support, SDLP Councillor Brain Tierney said that victims should not have to face any further delays.

“Their dignity and strength has been immense and it should be matched by government,” he said, as he outlined how his own party leader Colum Eastwood had tried repeatedly to progress this in the Assembly through amendments that would have guaranteed victims access to a redress scheme, but which was voted down by other parties.

Levelling criticism at Karen Bradley as he spoke about the Inquiry and what has happened since, he said: “Victims and survivors have had to publicly recount horrific experiences of physical, mental and emotional abuse over the course of decades.

“The process has been traumatic but their dignity and strength has been immense. That stands in stark contrast to the petty politicking that has been taking place on this issue.”

UUP Alderman Derek Hussey praised the “courageous and stoic” stand taken by victims and survivors, and claimed it was “shameful that the Secretary of State should hold us and the victims and survivors to ransom over this issue”.

Mayor Michaela Boyle also paid tribute to the victims, while DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney spoke of the pain and hurt of victims have had to endure. “I applaud the person who brought forward the motion, it’s timely and it needs to be sorted now,” he said.

After the motion was passed unanimously, the survivors and victims campaigners in the Guildhall’s public gallery applauded the Council, resulting in Councillors erupting in reciprocal applause for them.