Belfast Telegraph

Benefit U-turn for police officer Peadar Heffron who lost leg in blast

BY COLIN GEORGE

A Catholic, Irish-speaking PSNI constable who lost a leg in a dissident republican booby-trap car bomb is to be granted social security benefits after originally being deemed ineligible.

Peadar Heffron (below), who was a leading figure in the GAA, had been held up as a symbol of new policing in Northern Ireland.

Just months after he made a speech to the first PSNI meeting held in Irish, he was targeted in the dissident murder bid in January 2010 whent he bomb was placed under his car and exploded near Randalstown.

Mr Heffron had been on his way to work at Woodbourne police station in west Belfast and had driven about a mile from his home when the bomb exploded.

The 36-year-old, who had been a police officer for 10 years and captained the PSNI's GAA team, now uses a wheelchair.

During his recovery, it emerged that he would not be deemed eligible for benefits – because he had been travelling to work at the time, and therefore was not considered to have been on duty.

The original decision was made by the Industrial Injury Tribunal and caused widespread outrage.

That ruling has now been overturned by the chief Social Security Commissioner.

His solicitor, Suzanne Rice, said Mr Heffron was glad the battle was over.

"Mr Heffron is relieved this process is now ended, that he has got the result he was hoping for all along, and now it gives him the opportunity to move on with his life," she said.

The turn-around comes after a campaign backed at the highest levels, with the Attorney General, the Chief Constable and Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland all having intervened.

Campaigners have hailed the outcome and say there are huge implications for other cases.

Chairman of the Police Federation Terry Spence said: "Officers are being attacked both on and off duty and now they will know they are entitled to these benefits the same way civilians are."

The Department of Social Development has confirmed that it has received the Chief Commissioner's decision and is considering the content of that judgment and implications.

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