Belfast Telegraph

Should we deny help to those who need it just to punish a tiny group of people?

By Liam Clarke

Jude Whyte of WAVE recently told of the day in 1983 that a UVF man came to blow up his home and lost his own leg.

His mother told him to put a pillow under "the wee lad's head" and he did so as the attacker begged: "Don't kill me mister."

A year later, Mr Whyte's mother was murdered in a second terrorist attack.

Now the original bomber, whom the family comforted until he was taken away, could qualify for a pension if the new Bill being promoted by WAVE goes through. Is that fair?

We always remember examples of forgiveness like that of Mr Whyte and his mother.

We know instinctively that, if we can do it and the danger has passed, that is the right way to handle things.

If we pursue disputes indefinitely, even against the guilty with good reason, then the tension and bitterness which fed them will carry on. Somewhere a decision must be made on whether that really is best.

It is hard and counter-intuitive for innocent victims - people like Peter Heathwood who was shot in his home in mistake for someone else - to accept that their attackers deserve consideration.

But bitterness is as futile as grabbing a burning coal to throw at someone else. It hurts you first and most directly.

That was the view of Beryl Quigley who forgave the IRA men who gunned down her prison officer husband and tried to murder her too as she stood in her nightie to kiss him goodbye.

There are 357 severely disabled people out there who need a pension; we shouldn't lose sight of that.

It shouldn't really be necessary, but it is, because we do not help the sick and disabled as we should. For instance Mr Heathwood had deep vein massage stopped last year. It should be available because of his condition but if that isn't going to happen then the modest pension being proposed will allow him to get it himself.

Politicians should consider whether, in this case, it is more important to get the money to those who need it than to make a moral point. The good thing is that the number of disputed cases has been cut down to 10.

That makes it much easier to deal with in practice. Money to them could, for instance, be paid by a charitable body or through one of the prisoners' aid bodies already funded by the government or Europe.

The main thing is that the needs of the victims should not be forgotten or set aside in order to deny payments to a small group of people.

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