Belfast Telegraph

Free Presbyterian minister says Troubles compensation should be based on need instead of past

Rev David McIlveen
Rev David McIlveen

A Free Presbyterian Minister has said compensation should be paid to Troubles victims "based on need" and shouldn't take their past into consideration.

Rev David McIlveen said his fear for the peace process has changed his views on how compensation should be awarded to Troubles victims.

Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Sequence programme, he called for the financial needs of victims to be assessed by an independent panel and for them to remain anonymous throughout the process.

Earlier this year, the DUP said the the Victim's Commissioner Judith Thompson had lost confidence amongst unionists in relation to her position on a pension for victims of the Troubles.

Ms Thompson came under pressure in July to stand down when proposals for a pension for those injured in the Troubles resulted in a huge backlash from some who argued the plan equated victims with perpetrators of violence.

Judith Thompson later said she "totally agreed" with a statement made by DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly that there is no equivalence between perpetrators and victims.

Rev McIlveen said:"Over the last number of years we've been struggling with the great issue of peace in the sense that we didn't, I feel, appreciate what we had whenever it was presented to us.

"There was an opportunity for peace to be embraced and I see peace as a gift.

"Whenever there was the referendum on the peace process I voted against it, not because I voted against peace but I was concerned at the process and wondered would the process somehow suffocate the benefits and the blessings of peace.

"I thought that would be the way it would work out, then whenever Dr Paisley and Mr McGuinness came together I thought 'I was wrong'.

"I thought this is such a wonderful opportunity, a golden period.

"But sadly that has dimmed, it has been tarnished over the past number of years," he said.

Rev McIlveen (72) said it's important that Northern Ireland does move on when it comes to the peace process.

"There are many people suffering as a result of the troubles we have had and I am not diminishing that.

"But at the same time we can't live in the past, we have to move on and we've got to in some way compensate and encourage people to do that.

"We have to always appreciate that neither the state, or the church, or any organisation has an unending reservoir of comfort, we can't provide all the answers to people and people have got to evaluate what is most important for them" he said.

"I know we all have memory of our loved ones and especially those who have been taken from us during the Troubles, but there is a very wonderful bible verse that says, 'having food and raiment let us therefore be content'

"Evaluating the simple things in life is the basis of moving on."

Rev McIlveen, who was a close friend of the late Ian Paisley, was asked about victims who are still searching for the truth of what happened to their loved ones.

"I am not really convinced in my own mind about the pursuit of truth," he said.

"I don't know how one defines that in terms of all the ingredients that might perhaps make up that final solution to that individual.

"Could it be compensation, could it be more support from the government, from the church?

"When it comes to compensation, I know it is a sensitive issue, but I would (be)  of the mind that every individual who is suffering ... they should be treated in an anonymous way.

"If there is anonymity it certainly would bring [former paramilitaries] on board but we wouldn't know anything about that if it was in an anonymous way.

"But we are in a situation now were there are so many people who are suffering from the legacy of the past, I would suggest there are very few that would be in the category that would be viewed suspect.

"Every person would have to be assessed accordingly and if they have got needs - whatever those needs are - the response would be according to the measurement of their need.

"It wouldn't be to the classification of perpetrator or the classification of the innocent it would be the classification of those who have specific needs, that would be the criteria.

"It isn't compensation for all, the needy who are in that situation would come and they would present themselves in an anonymous way it would be up to an independent board perhaps to assess the needs," Rev McIlveen said.

"A challenge to all of us that we are inclined to be drawn back into the Troubles, drawn back into all the circumstances that developed out of them.

"I think most people would desire to have a better future not only for themselves but for the children that will follow," he said.

The interview with Rev David McIlveen can be heard on Sunday Sequence, Radio Ulster at 8.30am.

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