Survivors of institutional sexual and physical abuse in Northern Ireland have rejected compensation offered to them in response to a damaging leak that exposed more than 500 of their names.
The Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse (Savia) group said on Sunday it was “outraged” by the offer of £1,500 per person as recompense for their identities being revealed earlier this year.
In May, the names were revealed in a monthly newsletter sent by the body established to investigate their allegations and compensate survivors.
Those named in the leak had been part of the Northern Ireland historical institutional abuse inquiry and had opted to remain anonymous.
The inquiry was set up to investigate widespread allegations of sexual and physical abuse at 22 institutions run by religious, charitable and state bodies in Northern Ireland that took place over more than 70 years.
The email naming them was sent on behalf of the interim advocate for victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse, Brendan McAllister, whose office has been accused of breaching data protection and privacy rights.
Victims of the data breach have now been offered financial compensation of £1,500 by McAllister’s office.
A representative for the office wrote: “This sum of money is an offer to compensate you for your breach of privacy.” It said all legal fees would be covered.
The message offered “sincere apologies for the breach and its consequences”. It is understood the same offer has been made to all those affected by the breach.
Margaret McGuckin, who spoke out about her abuse in a Belfast orphanage and helped found Savia, urged her fellow survivors to reject the offer.
“There is going to be class action taken by 501 people who were named in that leak. Our advice is that they should ignore this offer and let our solicitor and other legal firms taking up cases to deal with this,” McGuckin said.
“The damage done by that leak cannot be calculated. There are people who never told their partners, their children, their wider family or their neighbours about what happened to them when they were children in those institutions. These people deserve far better than the measly sum they are now being offered in relation to this breach of their privacy.”
Following the leak, campaigners called for McAllister’s resignation. McAllister apologised at the time to all those affected and said measures had been taken to recall the email with the names on it.
The historical institutional abuse inquiry concluded that all the survivors should receive compensation from £7,500 to £100,000.