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Dispute over pension scheme for Troubles victims may be reaching resolution

The Troubles Permanent Disablement Scheme will allow payments for those most seriously injured during the decades-long conflict.

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Conor Murphy (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Conor Murphy (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Conor Murphy (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister has indicated that a long-running dispute over the funding of a pension scheme for people injured in the Troubles may be reaching a resolution.

The Troubles Permanent Disablement Scheme will allow payments for those most seriously injured during the decades-long conflict.

It has been delayed over a number of disagreements, including whether Belfast or London should meet the cost, which could reach £1.2 billion.

Conor Murphy said he is due to meet Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, First Minister Arlene Foster, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Justice Minister Naomi Long on Tuesday.

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Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

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Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

They previously met on February 23 and had been due to meet last week.

That meeting was postponed to Tuesday, and Mr Murphy told the Stormont Assembly he hopes the delay will have allowed Mr Lewis to speak with the Treasury.

“I have written to the Secretary of State to confirm that I am content to recommend that the Executive meets the full costs of the scheme as envisaged in the Stormont House Agreement as well as any implementation or administration costs,” he told MLAs.

“I remain absolutely committed to resolving the question of funding for the scheme, it’s important that victims have the certainty that they deserve about its longer term funding.”

The scheme has been estimated to cost between £600 million and £1.2 billion.

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Arlene Foster and Michelle ONeill (Liam McBurney/PA)

Arlene Foster and Michelle ONeill (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Arlene Foster and Michelle ONeill (Liam McBurney/PA)

The cost will depend on the number of recipients.

Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon asked the Finance Minister whether he had had any indication that London would fund his department for the scheme.

“I haven’t had anything very firm, I was told that the meeting we were due to have at the latter end of last week was postponed so he could have some discussions with Treasury,” he said.

“I sincerely hope that means that they are beginning to accept the responsibility that they have for a scheme that they devised and legislated for and which went well beyond the scope of the scheme which the parties had agreed to at Stormont House.”

There are some indications that the Secretary of State and the NIO are beginning to engage, and I hope that they have something to offer us tomorrowConor Murphy

Last month, the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled that Stormont was under a legal duty to fund the payment scheme for injured victims of the conflict.

It made no finding on the source of that funding and gave the Executive and Northern Ireland Office four weeks to agree a solution.

Mr Murphy told MLAs on Monday: “The courts are awaiting the outcome of these discussions and also the victims themselves, most importantly, are waiting the outcomes of these discussions.

“There are some indications that the Secretary of State and the NIO are beginning to engage, and I hope that they have something to offer us tomorrow.”

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