100,000 forgotten victims of the Troubles
Hundreds of people injured during the Troubles remain stressed, in failing health and left dependent on benefits, a major report revealed today.
The first study of its kind has estimated the total number of men, women and children injured during decades of conflict here could be as high as 100,000.
They suffered the loss of limbs, impaired or lost sight and hearing as well as “invisible” injuries such as embedded shrapnel and psychological trauma as the result of bombings and shootings.
Sandra McPeake, chief executive of victims group the WAVE Trauma Centre which commissioned the investigation, said: “It’s a staggering fact that since the start of the Troubles there is no official listing of people injured and therefore the injured and their families not only feel forgotten but in reality they actually have been forgotten.”
Today the campaign group is taking a 10,000-strong petition to Stormont to demand politicians give greater recognition to the needs of the victims.
In the survey — entitled The Injured in the Troubles in Northern Ireland and funded through the Community Relations Council —
injured people identified money worries as a “major stresser”.
For some cases, initial compensation was based on income rather than need, and life expectancy was underestimated.
Some awarded compensation — but who were unable to work — were also disqualified from entitlement to benefits.
The report added: “Thus injured people compensated in the early 1970s exhausted their compensation, since they had to live off it. They are now dependent entirely on benefits.
“Since many injured people rely entirely on the benefit system, the current review of disability benefits is causing great anxiety particularly the review of Disability Living Allowance (DLA).”
While over 70% backed the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the report showed many of those injured experienced feelings of increased resentment which only intensified as politicians’ promises of help were broken.
“Several injured people described a sense that peace has come too late for them and their difficulties were compounded by a lack of acknowledgment of their suffering,” it said.
This was illustrated by the Historical Inquiries Team’s remit not to investigate cases in which “only” injuries have occurred.
Author Professor Marie Smith said: “Where acknowledgement occurs it often focuses on death and bereavement, omitting injury, and this also contributes to the sense of injustice expressed by injured people.”
The study also reveals how others who were injured encountered the suspicion that what happened to them was due to their “involvement” in paramilitary groups, with often “invasive” questions.