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Hain hits out at victims' Troubles pension delay after death of campaigner

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Paddy Cassidy with former Secretary of State Julian Smith

Paddy Cassidy with former Secretary of State Julian Smith

Lord Hain

Lord Hain

Paddy Cassidy with former Secretary of State Julian Smith

A former Secretary of State has said the First and Deputy First Ministers should hang their heads in shame over the delay to victims' pensions.

Peter Hain was speaking after campaigner Paddy Cassidy died before the delayed scheme could be implemented.

Another campaigner questioned how many more would die before victims got their cash.

Lord Hain, who served in Northern Ireland from 2005 to 2007, said it was "outrageous" that Mr Cassidy was never able to claim the pension after rows at Stormont meant it was not available, as originally intended, on May 29.

Mr Cassidy, who was in his late 70s, had severe spinal injuries resulting from a random loyalist gun attack in September 1971 and took ill at his home in north Belfast. He died before an ambulance could take him to hospital on Tuesday.

Lord Hain told the Belfast Telegraph: "Paddy was a steadfast campaigner, wonderfully brave and determined and it's outrageous that he has not lived to see any acknowledgement of his suffering.

"While his family might benefit eventually, it's tragic that he has not been able to see any benefit himself to his years of campaigning.

"You have to ask how many more are going to suffer a similar fate and not live long enough to get what they are legally entitled to?

"I would hope current Secretary of State Brandon Lewis and the First and Deputy First Ministers are watching on in shame.

"Their responsibility in not delivering what victims are legally entitled to will be noted."

Jennifer McNern, who lost both her legs in the IRA's Abercorn bombing in Belfast in 1972, is currently seeking a judicial review into the delay of the pension.

She said the death of Mr Cassidy brought home the urgent need for the Executive to do the right thing.

"It's a sad day for us. As politicians continue to bicker and fight over the pension, how many more are not going to live to see their suffering acknowledged?" she asked.

"We're talking about an older generation here. We could lose another person next week, or the week after. It will happen again and again and we need them to know their suffering has been acknowledged and at least give them that comfort.

"I know Paddy would have been watching with interest what the judicial review would have brought. It's for people like Paddy that I felt I had to do this. Sadly he will not be around to see this through, but it's more important than ever that the right thing has to be done.

"I never wanted it to be this way, but it's all in the hands of the court now, I hope people will see Paddy deserved better.

"We have been left waiting for long enough. There is only a short time that this pension will be available for. Time is precious. Paddy's death shows us just how short that time could be."

Victims' campaign group SEFF said it was disgrace that Mr Cassidy "went to his grave never having seen right prevail".

Plans by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis to publish the latest draft guidelines on the Troubles pension were put on hold earlier this month.

Sinn Fein has said the guidelines discriminate against former prisoners.

The NIO has rejected that view and, along with the DUP, has accused Sinn Fein of blocking the pension payments by refusing to nominate the Justice Department to oversee the scheme.

The Executive Office was contacted for comment on the criticism of the delay.

Belfast Telegraph