UHRW launched a two week mini-campaign in the Newsletter today, to highlight the failure to deliver the Victim’s Payment Scheme – 30 days on and still no progress on victims’ pensions
There is something disdainful and hurtful about the way innocent victims of terrorism are being treated.
They had expected the Victims’ Payment Scheme to be open for applications on 29th May, but thirty days later, there are still no significant signs of any progress being made. This is a shameful state of affairs.
The legislation giving the scheme the ‘green light’ was passed six months ago. Not surprisingly, victims of terrorism collectively greeted the development with a great sigh of relief. They felt that at long last, they would get some financial relief for what they’d suffered at the hands of the evil people who planted bombs and murdered and maimed.
Their gentle optimism was short lived. Not only had the Executive Office failed to designate a Northern Ireland Department to manage the scheme, but there was what appeared to be disagreement over who should qualify for payments of between £2,000 and £10,000 per annum, although this had already been settled in the approved legislation.
Victims’ hopes evaporated as they once again became pawns in an unseemly political squabble. One step forward, two steps back was the order of the day. Naturally, their reaction encompassed feelings of disappointment, abandonment and great and justifiable anger.
This financial help would be a lifeline for hundreds of hapless victims. Many struggle to make ends meet and understand only too well what it is like to balance tight household budgets week in, week out. They know what the word ‘hardship’ means, and the certainty and dependability of a pension would provide welcome relief.
These are people of all ages who carry with them a range of appalling physical injuries from the loss of a hand or leg to debilitating paralysis which has cruelly consigned them to life in a wheelchair.
Of course, many have a range of life-long psychological ‘scars’ such as PTSD from their brush with death or what they witnessed. To them, as to us, paying compensation to those who were injured ‘by their own hand’ as they tried to commit murder would be a bridge too far.
The Government agreed. The crux of the matter is that this scheme passed into legislation at Westminster. The intention was that it would be administered by a nominated department at Stormont. Ministers insisted that £100 million which was part of the wider legacy allocation from London had already been made.
Under mounting pressure last week, it was reported but not confirmed that the Executive earmarked £2.5 million for the administration of the scheme, but other key parts of the management and operation of it, along with a start date, remain unresolved.
There seems to be only one way to end this logjam. Westminster approved what is a UK-wide scheme, so it is not unreasonable for a national department to administer it. That would take it out of the hands of the Northern Ireland Executive, which seems incapable of putting an end to what amounts to a row over the definition of a victim.
This would draw a line under this most unhappy episode which confers no credit to our political parties. We want to see action by the Government that brings the day closer when our victims of terrorism can look forward with certainty and confidence to receiving what is rightfully theirs.
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