Families of victims of the Troubles should receive a £12,000 payment even if they have already received compensation, the report of the Consultative Group on the Past made clear today.
The Eames/Bradley team also said it decided on the £12,000 “recognition” payment rather than recommend another review of compensation.
The Group said it is painfully aware it cannot fully address the loss of relatives and that no amount of compensation will ever make things right.
The payment by the British Government would be divided between eligible applicants and should also be tax-free and not affect any social security benefits or pensions, the Group said.
To allow the payments to be made quickly, the report recommended an existing, though unnamed, organisation should take on the task of processing the money.
“Concerns about compensation, expressed during the consultation, largely relate to the amounts paid in the 1970s and 1980s to the families of people killed as a result of the conflict,” it said.
“There was almost unanimous agreement that many payments were inadequate, not least because compensation was primarily based on loss of earnings and did not take into account the loss felt by the family.
“Although many families continue to need financial assistance, the call for compensation was not primarily about money, but rather a need for recognition of the loss of injury they endured.”
The Group said that it had therefore decided not to recommend a review of compensation paid to families during the conflict. “Instead the Group believes that all families of those who died should receive recognition of their suffering, regardless of past compensation payments.”
The nearest relative who would receive the payment could be a grandchild, uncle or aunt, nephew or niece and where more than one member of a family was killed, there would be a payment for each.
The money would be distributed evenly: for example, if the nearest living relatives were two brothers, each would receive £6,000.
The 190-page report concluded that Northern Ireland as a society had failed to develop a context in which people could grow and flourish rather than “sow divisions and inflict injuries”.
“Victims and survivors are, therefore, painful reminders of society’s failure, but the on-going pain of the bereaved and injured should spur on the building of a share and reconciled future,” it continued.
“Yet the difficulties in making pragmatic recommendations are complicated because when the needs and concerns of one group of victims are addressed, another group is likely to be offended.
“Yet this approach...is ultimately important for the health and well-being of society.” Calls on victims and survivors to ‘move on’ can be simplistic and facile.
Eames/Bradley back the report of the former interim Victims’ Commissioner Bertha McDougall, now one of the four commissioners, that the chief criticism of victims’ groups over funding is the “piecemeal and short term approach” which hit attempts to secure and retain good staff and ignored the fact that often the needs of victims and survivors do not emerge for a long time.