Newsletter Campaign 12: ‘40 days of shame’ over victims’ payment scheme

Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) says that today marks ‘forty days of shame’ over the failure to get the Victims’ Payment Scheme up and running.

The human rights organisation says innocent victims of terrorism are made victims once again by the inability to make payments of between £2,000 and £10,000 per annum.

The scheme was to be introduced forty days ago but disagreement over the definition of a victim, which had already been approved in Westminster legislation, forced the scheme again to be put on the long finger.

Ulster Human Rights Watch and the ‘News Letter’ have run a continuous campaign to highlight the treatment being meted out to genuine victims of terrorist actions.

Throughout the campaign, UHRW has backed the unambiguous Secretary of State’s guidance which blocked payments to former terrorists injured ‘at their own hand.’

Axel Schmidt, Advocacy Manager, Ulster Human Rights Watch, says it is a matter of very deep regret that nothing has happened to advance the cause of innocent victims.

Mr Schmidt said: “What has happened to hundreds of victims who, through no fault of their own, were left with life-changing physical and psychological injuries is nothing short of a national disgrace.

“Bad enough that no preparatory work was done in the months before the May start date, but since May 29th we have witnessed callous and heartless indifference. Victims are once again being treated disgracefully.

“We have lived through forty days of shame with not even a glimmer of hope that this unsatisfactory situation will be resolved anytime soon.

“We are seeing a complete failure on the part of the Northern Ireland Executive and an inexplicable reluctance shown by our national Government to step into the breach. Doing nothing seems to be the preferred option of Ministers.

“Do not underestimate the sense of abhorrence and injustice being felt by innocent victims. Their very raw emotions have come through the stories of individual victims carried in the ‘News Letter’ over the past eleven days of this mini-campaign.

This ‘paper has given them a voice and their own words, captured on video and seen by thousands on the Ulster Human Rights Watch’s combined Twitter and Facebook social media platforms, have left no one in any doubt about the way they feel they have been treated.

“To the UK Government, I respectfully say again that it is time to end this disastrous situation and begin to treat people with decency and respect.”

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Newsletter Campaign 11: Sam’s flashbacks and nightmares continue 27 years after ambush

Sam Sleith has terrible flashbacks….nightmares where he flails about in his sleep reliving gun attacks and bomb detonations.

Sam served in the UDR and twenty-seven years on from an ambush in the Markets area of Belfast, his frightening recollections flood back like a video with the button stuck on constant play.

His PTSD sees him on patrol after 11 pm. Gunfire is directed at them and a Lance Corporal colleague and friend is hit in the side of the face.

At first, it was thought he sustained a flesh wound, but hours later in hospital, medical staff discovered the injured soldier was full of shrapnel and that the bullet had come close to his spinal cord.

The legacy of that ambush has been life-changing and permanent.

Sam says: “ I won’t go to bed until after one o’clock because I know that if the sleeping tabled doesn’t work – you’ve a forty-five minute window for that to work –  you’re up all night because everything is going through your head.

“I don’t know how many mattresses we’ve had to buy because of the sweating. You’d think somebody had come in and put a hose on you. You’re just absolutely soaked.”

Sam isn’t the only victim. His wife, Linda, can sometimes be the unintended victim of the night-time torment.

“The worst thing of all that I fear is that I attack her some nights in my sleep. I’ve nipped her, left bruises on her, I’m actually fighting,” explains Sam.

On the delayed Victims’ Payment Scheme, Sam offers this piece of advice to legislators: “Pay up! Just pay up! It’s not a fortune and we’re all dying off. It’s not forever. You know, people have died who should have been due a pension.

“It would make so much difference to some people’s lives, even if its £20 a-week. That’s a difference to somebody getting electric or gas. …..They (politicians) gave us the impression that it was signed, sealed and dusted, and now they’re quibbling over who pays for it.

“….I don’t know if anybody has worked it out, what it would be over the period of time,  but you’re not talking billions or anything, you know, but the people who really deserve it are the innocent civilians who had absolutely nothing to do with it.”

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Newsletter Campaign 10: Perpetrator and victim are two different things, says sister of man murdered by loyalists

Today, Colette Murray will be reliving the horror of what happened to her brother, Cyril, twenty-eight years ago.

Shortly after midnight, loyalist gunmen wearing balaclavas burst into their Kerrsland Drive home in east Belfast and murdered him at the top of the stairs.

Cyril was not the intended target of the killers. They’d gone to the wrong house and murdered the 51 year-old retired teacher and keen artist.

Brother and sister were within two weeks of moving to a new home in Randalstown when the attack happened.

For Colette, life has never been the same: “I lost companionship. I lost help. I lost someone I could talk to about different things. It’s just not the life I should have been living.”

Like other innocent victims, Colette is hurt and angry over the failure to get the Victims’ Payment scheme off the ground.

She says: “I think it’s disgusting that people can’t get what they are entitled to get. All because someone who may have been involved in something wants it when he is probably a perpetrator.

And I think there’s no way you can say that a perpetrator can be a victim. They’re two different things.

“I don’t know how many years it is since they’ve been talking about this and nothing has happened. I can’t see it ever being fixed.

“I think it would be an acknowledgement of what happened to them should never have happened as well as obviously helping them financially in their day-to-day lives.”

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