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Ex-prisoner left paralysed after LVF terror attack claims he deserves Troubles pension

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Christy Cummings before delivering a letter to the Northern Ireland Office at Stormont House yesterday

Christy Cummings before delivering a letter to the Northern Ireland Office at Stormont House yesterday

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Christy Cummings before delivering a letter to the Northern Ireland Office at Stormont House yesterday

A former republican prisoner left paralysed in a loyalist gun attack has delivered a letter to Stormont in protest at draft UK Government guidelines which he says could deny him a Troubles pension.

Christy Cummings (63) was working as a doorman at the Glengannon Hotel, near Dungannon, when he was shot preventing an LVF massacre at the premises in December 1997.

Another doorman, Seamus Dillon, was killed by the loyalist gunmen and several others were injured.

Mr Cummings was shot in the back and was left paralysed from the chest down. He said he didn't receive compensation because he was a former prisoner, and he fears he now won't secure a victims' pension for the same reason.

He hand-delivered his letter for Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, to the Northern Ireland Office at Stormont House.

Speaking earlier, he said: "I was working as a doorman on the evening of the (LVF) attack, along with Seamus and my brother-in-law who was also shot.

"As former republican prisoners, it was the only type of work we could get to put bread on the table for our families.

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Seamus Dillon

Seamus Dillon

Seamus Dillon

"We prevented loyalist gunmen from entering the premises and causing another massacre like that in Greysteel or Loughinisland.

"I've struggled physically and mentally over the years following the attack. I live with chronic pain."

Mr Cummings was convicted in 1979 of leaving a hoax bomb outside a house and of IRA membership.

He was sentenced to 16 years in jail, but the sentence was reduced on appeal and he spent less than seven years behind bars.

He continues to assert his innocence, and his case is under consideration by the Criminal Case Review Commission.

Under the current draft guidelines for the victims' pension, ex-prisoners who have spent more than two-and-a-half years in jail must go before a High Court judge-led independent panel.

It will assess whether there are mitigating factors to justify them receiving the compensation paid automatically to other injured people. Mr Cummings claims this is discriminatory.

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Police outside The Glengannon Hotel, near Dungannon, where doorman and former republican prisoner Seamus Dillon was shot dead in 1997

Police outside The Glengannon Hotel, near Dungannon, where doorman and former republican prisoner Seamus Dillon was shot dead in 1997

Police outside The Glengannon Hotel, near Dungannon, where doorman and former republican prisoner Seamus Dillon was shot dead in 1997

His son Ruairi said his father was a hero who had saved lives. He said he deserved to be treated as a victim "just like thousands of other people".

He added: "The playing field is not level. My daddy suffers psychologically and physically every single day and has done since this has happened. The pain never goes away for my father."

Solicitor Niall Murphy said Mr Cummings and people in similar circumstances should not have to rely on the "whims" of an independent panel to qualify for the victims' pension.

Sinn Fein is refusing to nominate a Stormont department to operate the pension scheme.

Party president Mary Lou McDonald yesterday said there was a distinction between "combatants and civilian victims".

But she said that no distinction must be made between different "combatants", and republicans should be treated the same as those who served in the security forces when it comes to eligibility.

She told Radio Ulster that Sinn Fein wouldn't support a scheme "that is very deliberately and rather crudely designed to be partisan and to be partial and to make judgments as to who was right and who was wrong in terms of the combatant groups in the conflict".

Meanwhile, First Minister Arlene Foster said she was "particularly upset" that the scheme had not progressed.

"It is important that we proceed because it is wrong that innocent victims are not receiving what they're legally entitled to receive," she said.

If there was no agreement at Stormont, then "the Westminster Government have an obligation to look to other ways to deal with this issue", she added.

On the row over whether London or Stormont funds the scheme, Mrs Foster said the responsibility lay with Westminster.

Belfast Telegraph