Belfast Telegraph

Family of soldier injured in IRA bomb will reject Troubles pension if paramilitiaries eligible

Grant Weir with his sister Michele Nixon. Credit: BBC
Grant Weir with his sister Michele Nixon. Credit: BBC

The family of a former soldier who was left brain-damaged by an IRA bomb has said they will not accept a Troubles-related pension if injured ex-paramilitaries also receive it.

Grant Weir, from Co Fermanagh, was injured when the IRA attacked his UDR patrol as it drove past a bus stop near Rosslea in Fermanagh on July 17 1979.

Mr Weir, who was 22 when he was injured, is cared for by his family, including his sisters Debbie Palmer and Michele Nixon.

Victims' commissioner Judith Thompson has said payments to those injured during the Troubles should be tiered depending on how badly hurt they are, including those hurt while carrying out attacks.

The legislation is aimed at helping people who have been unable to work and earn their own pension due to severe and permanent physical and psychological injuries as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Mrs Nixon told the BBC that the IRA bombing changed their family forever.

Mrs Palmer said the pension would make a massive difference to the family.

"Financially it would definitely allow us to help out with Grant a great deal," she said.

"However, if that also meant that potentially the... people responsible for blowing up Grant... would have an entitlement to that same pension... it's beyond belief.

"As a family, we would never accept a payment if it meant that the people who went out to destroy lives, destroy families, were to be put into the same category... as Grant, whose life they have destroyed."

The government is examining the victims' commissioner's advice about the pensions.

The victims' commissioner said she acknowledges there are political sensitivities around eligibility to the pension but that it was "fair and reasonable" to support those who had suffered greatly during the Troubles.

UUP justice spokesman Doug Beattie said he strongly opposed the idea that perpetrators of terrorist violence should benefit from the pension.

"There remains a serious issue in the provisions of the Victims and Survivors Pension Arrangement (VASPA) - that those were injured by their own hand while conducting terrorist atrocities will be grouped along with those who became victims because of their actions.," he said.

"This is not acceptable and the UUP position is clear - in the case of VASPA, the rules around eligibility should be in line with the UK Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme where it states: ‘We can compensate blameless victims of violent crime, or people whose loved ones have died as a result of a violent crime’. The key word being blameless."

The Upper Bann MLA said that he did not oppose providing medical and other help for those damaged by their actions but that the UUP "cannot condone" financially rewarding those who "inflicted pain on others".

More than 3,600 people were killed during the Troubles, with more than 40,000 injured.

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