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UDR widows take their battle over pensions to Westminster

By Rebecca Black

Published 16/06/2016

Northern Ireland MPs with UDR widows outside the Houses of Parliament
Northern Ireland MPs with UDR widows outside the Houses of Parliament

Widows of UDR soldiers killed during the Troubles have taken their campaign to have their military pensions restored to Westminster.

They have backed other army widows from across the UK who staged a protest outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday.

The women want to see the military pensions which they use to receive restored. Their pensions had been cut off after they remarried.

One of the UDR widows, Eileen Johnston from Dungannon, lost her husband, Corporal David Graham, at the hands of the IRA aged 38 in 1977.

Mrs Johnston (73) and their three children received a war widow's pension for a number of years until she remarried, after which it was stopped.

She told the Belfast Telegraph she was made to feel as if she had done something wrong.

Across the UK, 250 women are in a similar position because they married again between 1973 and 2005.

A number of Northern Ireland MPs including the DUP's Gavin Robinson, Gregory Campbell, David Simpson, Jim Shannon and Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon, turned out to support the widows yesterday.

In May, Prime Minister David Cameron agreed to meet Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland from Leeds to discuss the issue.

Mr Mulholland has been advocating for his constituent Susan Rimmer, who lost her first husband to a terrorist bomb in Northern Ireland in 1972, when she was just 19 and pregnant.

Her war widow's pension was stopped when she remarried.

Mr Mulholland described this as a "disgraceful way to treat those who have lost loved ones serving our country".

In 2014 a similar policy was reversed to allow RUC widows who had remarried to reclaim their pensions, which had been taken away in 1988.

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United (IVU), said the Ministry of Defence must rectify this "gross inequality".

"IVU and the South East Fermanagh Foundation has been facilitating a local campaign group in NI comprised of affected UDR widows," he said.

"Unfortunately none of these widows were able to travel across to Westminster today but I was present to represent their interests.

"The events brought a welcome focus to the campaign which is UK-wide.

"The widows present demonstrated their customary dignity, sharing reflections of difficult events concerning the loss of their loved one, their subsequent joy in remarrying and then their despair at how the MoD dealt with their changed personal circumstances.

"The Defence Minister and MoD must rectify a gross inequality which has been allowed to continue and which insults the memory of the men who were murdered or died whilst serving this country."

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