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All terror victims need support

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 15/06/2015

One of the continuing difficulties facing Northern Ireland is how to deal properly with the past, and particularly with the victims of violence.

Sadly, it appears that the latest attempt to bring some limited relief to victims may founder because of the complexities of trying to bring the right degree of help to those entitled to it.

The Victims Pension Bill, which was part of the Stormont House Agreement, has the intention of bringing benefits to some 400 people who suffered life-changing injuries, and have been unable to work.

Unfortunately, a loophole could mean that six loyalists and four republican paramilitaries would cash in, to the extent of £150 a week.

Such a prospect is utterly ridiculous. Most people agree that there should be no equivalence between the victims of violence and those who set out to maim or kill other human beings.

The true victims of violence are being given a rough deal, and now some across the water are rightly making their views known, because the Victims Pension Bill will not cover those outside Northern Ireland.

They include the Canary Wharf victim Zaoul Berezag, who was left blinded and paralysed by the Provisional IRA bomb, and has also lost a leg to diabetes. Neil Tattersall has to live on a £50 weekly benefit, after being badly injured by an IRA bomb in Manchester in 1992. This is not right.

People here and outside Northern Ireland are entitled to ask why such folk are being excluded from any pensions benefit. Their distress is no different to those within Northern Ireland, and it is shameful that this state of affairs exists.

Sadly, we often behave as if the only victims of violence are from Northern Ireland, and we so often overlook those from outside. These two men are victims who unfortunately were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and who have had to pay a heavy price.

Dealing with our past remains problematic, and our chronic failure to do so is a stain on the peace process. The vast majority of victims of the Troubles deserve help, and this must be accepted by politicians and people on all sides.

Some of the victims are now elderly, like Mr Berezag, who is 75. Once again we must make a determined effort to provide help, on a just basis, to all victims in need, before it is too late to do so. There are no excuses left.

Belfast Telegraph

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