Troubles victims ‘used as pawns’ in pensions funding row

ireland
The scene after the Enniskillen bomb in November 1987. Photo: PA Archive/PA Images
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By Rebecca Black, PA

Victims of the Troubles are being used as pawns in a game of ping-pong between Stormont and Westminster, an advocacy group has said.

The Stormont Executive and Westminster Government remain at loggerheads over who should pay for a long-awaited compensation scheme for victims.

The Victims’ Payment Scheme was given the green light at Westminster last year, and Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy said it should therefore be paid for by London.

Belfast bomb victim Jennifer McNern (centre) launched a court bid over her Troubles pension. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

However, a UK Government spokesman said Secretary of State Brandon Lewis believes Stormont is funded to deliver commitments, including this scheme.

The Department of Justice in Northern Ireland has been designated to administer the scheme, which could cost an estimated £800 million (€900 million).

The continuing stalemate emerged on Monday as Mr Murphy unveiled his draft Budget.

“The Executive is fully committed to delivering these payments and, in line with the British Government’s own statement of funding policy, it is the responsibility of the British Government to provide the necessary funding,” he told MLAs.

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Victims’ group Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) has condemned the “appalling and callous treatment of innocent victims of terrorism”.

UHRW advocacy manager Axel Schmidt said: “Our victims are pawns in a deplorable political game of ping-pong.

“It does no-one any credit, neither the devolved Stormont administration nor the Government.”

He urged Executive ministers and Mr Lewis to come up with a solution.

“A compromise or temporary fix is urgently required until we can resolve all outstanding matters,” he said.

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Stalemate over Troubles victims’ pension funding g...
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“We have already asked Mr Lewis for a meeting, which is now urgent. We will also lobby ministers to see what can be done to get payments to the people who need them and who, for far too long, have suffered in silence.”

The Victims’ Payment Scheme was designed to compensate those severely injured in the Troubles.

Recipients are to get between £2,000 and £10,000 a year for the rest of their lives, with applications due to open in March.

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