Belfast Telegraph

Four victims of the Troubles die waiting on pension since 2011

By Allan Preston

A victims' campaign group has said four of its members have died since they first asked Stormont leaders in 2011 to agree on a pension for those left unable to work after being injured during the Troubles.

Paul Gallagher, who campaigns for the Wave Trauma Centre, was left paralysed by a loyalist gun attack in 1994.

As millions pour into the coffers of groups with links to former paramilitaries, Paul feels re-traumatised by Stormont's inaction over terror victims.

His attackers had forced their way into his house in Lenadoon in west Belfast to wait for a neighbour to return home. When their target never arrived they shot Paul instead six times.

Although he graduated with a First Class honours degree from Queen's University this year, Paul says his injuries make it impossible for him to return to full-time employment - and he fears having to rely solely on state benefits when he reaches retirement age.

On a daily basis he requires help from his father and brother to use the bathroom and to get around. This year, complications from his paralysis also required him to have a kidney removed.

Paul is thought to be one of at least 500 people who were injured in the Troubles through no fault of their own and left unable to work.

"We've buried four of our members since this campaign started," he said. "It's really demoralising - it's as if violence is being put on us again, but we're fighting against this structural power."

Today, Wave has written to politicians and church leaders to ask them to support the pension, with details of those badly in need of support.

They include Peter Heathwood, shot and left paralysed by a loyalist gang in 1979 when he was 26. His father died from a heart attack when he arrived and thought his son was dead.

Another victim, a 38-year-old mother of four, was blinded in 1982 when an IRA bomb shattered the windows in her office.

Alan McBride is the Injured Group Co-ordinator for Wave. He said politicians needed to offer more than "tea and sympathy".

He added the Injured Group have "hit a brick wall" as the DUP and Sinn Fein could not agree which victims deserved a pension. Mr McBride said he did not begrudge millions being awarded to groups with paramilitary links "to leave the stage," but couldn't understand why innocent victims were not also helped.

Victims and Survivors Commissioner Judith Thompson said: "The fact that we have not been able to achieve the pension is a profound indictment of how we treat these individuals."

Belfast Telegraph


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