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Victims of Troubles let down once again

Editor's Viewpoint

This newspaper has consistently highlighted the shameful treatment of victims and survivors of the Troubles. Almost two decades after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, legacy issues continue to be contentious and one of the main sticking points preventing the restoration of devolution at Stormont.

Today we reveal another blow to those who suffered most grievously during our decades of conflict.

A body set up to deliver funding and support to victims and survivors is to cut the benefits it pays because of uncertainty over its own future budget.

Like many other public bodies and arms-length agencies funded by the taxpayer, it is a victim of the current political impasse at Stormont. And the real losers are those it was set up to support.

Those are people injured physically or psychologically, those who care for them and those who have been bereaved.

While in no way decrying the work of the body, the Victims and Survivors Service, its establishment was just a small step in the right direction.

Take the case history we highlight today. A former undercover police officer who put his life on the line in the campaign against the IRA was originally given a benefit of £2,250 a year. Now that is being cut to £1,000, just £19 a week. That would barely cover the cost of a Friday night takeaway meal.

The former officer used his payment to access a therapist to deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his life on the front line against terrorism. Now he can no longer afford those twice weekly sessions.

Is that really the way to treat a hero, or indeed anyone directly affected by the horrors of the Troubles?

Cutting the benefits payable to some 5,800 recipients will not actually save the public purse a significant sum of money. The savings are estimated to be in the region of £5-£7m, which is the sort of money that falls down the back of the sofa in government finances.

We can all think of examples of how similar sums of money are wasted at Stormont, yet it can make a difference to the lives of people who deserve it, and, indeed, much more given what they have been through.

Once again they have been let down by local politicians. They can set a proper budget for services - or at least a list of priorities - if they agree to restore devolution.

However, the chances of that happening still seem remote.

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