Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson: I'll veto any pension for terrorists

By Chris Kilpatrick

Proposed pension payments to those injured during the Troubles must not include perpetrators of terrorist atrocities, the First Minister has said.

A controversial report by the Victims Commission on how to deal with legacy issues called for the immediate setting up of a pension scheme for those hurt during the conflict.

The report reignited the heated debate on the definition of a victim and who would qualify for payouts.

Peter Robinson said he would not support any pension for perpetrators of violence.

"Let's be very clear, I am not in the business of providing any reward to those who have been involved in terrorism, so these are issues that we have to go into in great detail," he said yesterday.

"I listened to the Victims Commissioner this morning and it is fairly clear that while there are ideas in the report, some of them have not been thought out in detail.

"Indeed, the number of conditions and caveats that were announced by the Victims Commissioner, which are not contained in the report, would indicate that there is an awful lot of work to do."

The report by the Commission for Victims and Survivors suggested a number of processes aimed at addressing issues which remain unresolved from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

The report said the sending of letters of apology by perpetrators of violence would be hugely beneficial to victims.

Sinn Fein MLA Mitchel McLaughlin welcomed the report, which he said highlighted the need to deal with conflict legacy issues.

"The legacy of our past is having a real effect on our present and our future. The past is colliding with our present every single day and is in danger of undoing the work that we have all put in to building the peace," he said.

"Unless and until the political parties, and the Irish and British governments, agree a way forward, it will continue to constantly drag us back and will not address the very real needs of victims and survivors in our society."

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said the proposal of financial assistance to those seriously injured in the years of violence "needs to be properly and fully considered".

"The proposal for financial assistance for those injured is not the Eames-Bradley proposals of payment to victims. It should not be viewed as such," he said.

"Kathryn Stone has been a fearless and strong advocate for victims and survivors. In a short time she has achieved much.

"She has the confidence of many, many victims and survivors, and rightly so. Her proposals are well considered and deserve consideration by all."

Jude Whyte, a member of the Victims and Survivors Forum, welcomed the idea of apology letters to victims.

"I think saying sorry can be a very liberating experience for the person who says sorry," he said.

"And if the people who are receiving the apology will take it in the context, I think it's a very positive thing."

He added: "The vast bulk of people who we are trying to get pensions for have been severely injured many years ago."

But Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said he had problems with the proposals.

"It's unfortunate that the same mistakes have been made as were made in Eames-Bradley.

"It's unfortunate that the commission has put forward a document where the whole issue around a perpetrator and an innocent victim still is not dealt with. That will be a problem."

It is accepted in the report that not all of those affected may wish to take part in any process on the past.

"They are the living conscience of the past and we have to do more than pay lip-service to listening," Ms Stone said. "We need to stop the cycle of constant consultation and rejection of proposals because they do not meet every political nuance.

"I believe there is the political will to meet the needs of victims and survivors, that needs to be translated into action and that action must be now."

The report was produced after discussions with victims' groups, advice from the Victims Forum and views expressed at a conference last February.

STORY SO FAR

The Commission for Victims and Survivors published its advice paper to First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, entitled Dealing With The Past. It contains four key recommendations to address conflict legacy issues in Northern Ireland. Among them was an official acknowledgment of the hurt and pain caused to victims in the form of a written apology, and the payment of pensions to those injured.

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