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26 April 2021

Stormont urged to set up redress scheme for mother and baby home survivors

26 April 2021

The Stormont Executive has been urged to set up a redress scheme to operate in parallel with an inquiry into mother and baby and Magdalene Laundry institutions.

The call came from Jon McCourt, who is among survivors of historical institutional abuse.

Applications for compensation for historical institutional abuse only opened last year, four years after a public inquiry into the matter concluded in 2016.

Mother and baby homes victims (PA Wire)

Fiona Ryan, commissioner for survivors of institutional childhood abuse, warned a Stormont committee last week that it could take 10 years before all the payments are made.

Thousands of pregnant women and girls passed through mother and baby homes, where Stormont-commissioned academic research published in January found many suffered degrading treatment.

The Executive agreed to establish an investigation into the institutions, with the nature of the inquiry to be determined by the women who were sent to them and the children to whom they gave birth.

Mother and baby homes report (PA Wire)

Mr McCourt has urged those involved not to suffer the delays that survivors of historical institutional abuse have.

“Compensation is part of a package of redress measures which the Executive can put in place to try to put things right,” he said.

“There’s no reason why a redress scheme should not be put in place alongside the inquiry, rather than survivors having to wait years for a scheme to be set up after the inquiry concludes, and years more for it to pay it support to often very elderly people.

“It is clear from the research already completed by the universities that serious abuse was widespread and systemic in these mother and baby homes

“My message to survivors is simple: don’t suffer the same delays we experienced. Demand a redress process in tandem with an inquiry.

“It is imperative that those affected living outside of this jurisdiction are treated equally when it comes to redress. There should be no territorial limitation on benefits exemption for redress payments.”

We have a golden opportunity to put in place an inquiry, and other related support processes like redress, to meet the needs of victims and survivors

Mr McCourt was speaking at an information event for survivors to help learn the lessons of past inquiries when designing the new investigation into mother and baby institutions in Northern Ireland.

The event organisers, Patrick Corrigan, of Amnesty International, and Professor Patricia Lundy, of Ulster University, said they hope the online event series will help survivors to design the forthcoming inquiry.

Mr Corrigan, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland programme director, said learning lessons from previous probes is key to getting it right for survivors of mother and baby homes and Magdalene Laundries.

“We have a golden opportunity to put in place an inquiry, and other related support processes like redress, to meet the needs of victims and survivors,” he said.

“It is important that survivors get involved in the design of the inquiry now so that crucial decisions are not made without them.”

A six-month co-design process for the mother and baby homes investigation commenced in March, facilitated by Dr Maeve O’Rourke, Professor Phil Scraton and senior social worker Deirdre Mahon.

– The events are available to watch online at https://www.amnesty.org.uk/motherandbabyinquiry

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