| 11.2°C Belfast

Extension of free school meal support held up by victims’ compensation row

A series of spending allocations have been delayed due to the impasse.

Close

The meal funding hold-up is understood to relate to a stand-off between Sinn Fein and the DUP about stalled compensation payments for injured victims of the Troubles (PA)

The meal funding hold-up is understood to relate to a stand-off between Sinn Fein and the DUP about stalled compensation payments for injured victims of the Troubles (PA)

The meal funding hold-up is understood to relate to a stand-off between Sinn Fein and the DUP about stalled compensation payments for injured victims of the Troubles (PA)

A series of Stormont spending reallocations, including money for free school meal support over the summer, have been held up over a row about Troubles compensation.

Executive ministers had been due to sign off June’s monitoring round at a meeting on Monday, with the plans set to be presented to the Assembly on Tuesday.

However, the monitoring round was not brought before the Executive by Finance Minister Conor Murphy as anticipated.

Monitoring rounds reallocate unspent funds within Stormont departments to in-year emerging priorities. They happen three times a financial year.

Close

Conor Murphy had been due to bring the monitoring round paper to the executive on Monday (Liam McBurney/PA).

Conor Murphy had been due to bring the monitoring round paper to the executive on Monday (Liam McBurney/PA).

PA

Conor Murphy had been due to bring the monitoring round paper to the executive on Monday (Liam McBurney/PA).

The hold-up is understood to relate to a stand-off between Sinn Fein and the DUP about stalled compensation payments for injured victims of the Troubles.

The parties are at odds over whether the monitoring round should include the funds to cover the set-up costs of administering the compensation scheme.

As a result, the whole reallocation process has been delayed.

One of the issues that was due to be included in the round was the diversion of £12 million to the Department of Education to extend free school meal support to eligible families over the summer period.

It is understood ministers may now look at a different way to allocate funds to the department outside of the normal process.

Health minister Robin Swann confirmed that his department has funding bids in but declined to disclose further details on “internal conversations of an Executive meeting that haven’t been made public”.

“Yes we have bids in, we have substantial bids in, those will become known in due process, I’ll not step outside the confidentiality of the Executive because I don’t think that serves anyone well,” he said.

The row relates to the Government’s proposed guidelines for deciding who is eligible for Troubles’ compensation.

Close

Former republican prisoner Christy Cummings (centre) delivered a legal letter to the Northern Ireland Office last week claiming the scheme is discriminatory (Liam McBurney/PA)

Former republican prisoner Christy Cummings (centre) delivered a legal letter to the Northern Ireland Office last week claiming the scheme is discriminatory (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Former republican prisoner Christy Cummings (centre) delivered a legal letter to the Northern Ireland Office last week claiming the scheme is discriminatory (Liam McBurney/PA)

The scheme, which would have offered payments ranging from £2,000 to £10,000-a-year depending on the severity of the injury, was supposed to open to applications on May 29 but its future has been thrown into doubt amid the wrangle.

Under the Government’s draft guidelines, those convicted of serious terror offences during the Troubles would have to go before a judge-led independent panel to assess whether there were sufficient mitigating factors to justify the award of the compensation payments paid automatically to other injured people.

Anyone injured in the same incident for which they received a conviction are barred from payments.

Sinn Fein claims the guidelines would discriminate against thousands of people from the nationalist community.

The party has refused to approve the appointment of a Stormont department – the Department of Justice – to administer the scheme until the issue is resolved.

It is understood the proposed monitoring round allocation was not for any payments themselves, but for administrative costs to enable the Department of Justice to set up the scheme.

In a separate disagreement linked to the scheme, the Stormont Executive and the Government remain at odds on how the payments are funded.

The Government has insisted it is a matter for the devolved administration to pay for out of its block grant.

But Stormont’s leaders say the scheme was legislated for at Westminster, and covers victims across the UK, so the Government should pay a significant amount.

PA