Assurance over Troubles pension criteria welcomed
John Penrose said that any funds made available will only go to members of the public, rather than those involved in orchestrating terrorist acts.
The Government has pledged not to extend a pension for those injured during the Troubles to those involved in orchestrating terrorist acts.
The assurance came in the House of Commons on Monday as a pension for victims of Northern Ireland’s troubled past moved a step closer.
DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly tabled an urgent question asking for clarity on the eligibility criteria for the pension.
Northern Ireland Office minister John Penrose responded telling MPs there is “no moral equivalence” between by-standers injured by bombs during the Troubles and the those who placed bombs and were subsequently injured.
Mr Penrose said that any funds made available will only go to members of the public, rather than those involved in orchestrating terrorist acts.
The pension is set to come into effect by next May, subject to the Stormont Assembly not being reconvened by October 21.
I have no doubt that those words will be warmly welcomed by victims Emma Little Pengelly
Speaking outside the House of Commons, Ms Little-Pengelly welcomed Mr Penrose’s statement.
“I have no doubt that those words will be warmly welcomed by victims,” she said.
“Those who suffered so grievously during the Troubles are getting older and their needs continue and grow. It is vital that we should have a victim-centred process, and a pension which is focused on those innocent victims should be a key part of that process.”
Mr Penrose’s assurance came after 14 victims groups united to demand the resignation of Victim’s Commission Judith Thompson over the definition of a victim.
The groups, which include Innocent Victims United and FAIR and was backed by the TUV and Orange Order, said Ms Thompson has neither the “trust nor confidence” of many victims.
The Victim’s Commissioner said she will continue to “communicate the views of all victims”.
In a statement, Ms Thompson said the definition of a victim as laid down in the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 could allow someone who has harmed others to be eligible for a pension.
She described it as “entirely understandable that many people are deeply uncomfortable and indeed angry” at that definition, but said her office operates under that order and cannot make recommendations contrary to it.
“From the outset I have been clear that to not allow any progress for the overwhelming majority of people who have waited so long for it, due to disagreement around a very small number, is a huge and hurtful disservice to those survivors who have lived with the anxiety of an uncertain financial future,” she added.
Meanwhile, another victims group WAVE told PA it was not calling for her resignation, and pressed instead for the introduction of the pension.
“We are not calling for anyone to resign,” he said.
“What we are calling for is the implementation of what was agreed in Parliament last week that there should be a pension and the principle criterion by which victims will secure that pension is ‘through no fault of their own’.”