Belfast Telegraph

I'll never stop fighting against terror pensions, says Shankill bomb victims' daughter

Michelle Williamson
Michelle Williamson
Victims’ Commissioner Judith Thompson
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A woman who lost both parents in the Shankill bomb 25 years ago has said she will never give up fighting for them despite the Government's pledge that terrorists will not be eligible for a victims' pension.

Michelle Williamson is adamant that her online petition urging the Government not to pay pensions to injured terrorists will continue until the day victims are finally treated with the respect she feels they deserve.

Northern Ireland Office minister John Penrose told the House of Commons on Monday: "There is no moral equivalence between a bystander injured in a terrorist explosion through no fault of their own, and the people who manufactured the bomb, placed the bomb and detonated (it)."

Despite that assurance, over 5,500 people have already signed Ms Williamson's petition.

She said: "We need this to be an insurance policy. I've been fighting for victims for 25 years and that won't be stopping.

"We've had promises before and this time I'm determined to make sure there is no U-turn."

The petition at change.org has received over 1,000 new signatures each day since being set up.

"It's more important than ever to get this message out there and I call on our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to make sure the victims of terrorism come first," Ms Williamson added.

"I will carry on until this is cemented in law and there can be no turning back. One penny to anyone who set out to murder is one penny too much.

"If that happens, the Government should hold their heads in shame."

IRA terrorist Thomas Begley died with nine others when he and Sean Kelly blew up Frizzell's fish shop on the Shankill Road in October 1993.

Michelle's parents, George and Gillian Williamson, were among those murdered.

"One of the terrorists who murdered my parents is out living his life. I'm still serving my life sentence," she said.

"I don't want to have to do this, but I owe it to my parents. I owe it to all the victims who have stood alongside me, who have suffered for so long.

"My parents were murdered carrying shopping bags on a Saturday afternoon on the Shankill Road. Sean Kelly was carrying a bomb. I care about the victims. Sadly it seems like the Victims' Commissioner does not. The words from Judith Thompson, saying those who planted bombs and set out to kill innocents should be eligible for a victims pension, hurt all those who, like me, have suffered so much.

"She no longer represents me, so I have to speak up for myself and I have been heartened by the support for the petition."

On Monday, Mr Penrose told MPs the Victims' Commissioner had "suffered the full force of quite a lot of people's wrath over the course of the last few days".

"I am pleased that she has issued a clarificatory statement which I think is very important. She has (said) and I'm quoting, 'I'm acutely aware of the perception that this scheme is somehow drawing moral equivalence, putting victims and perpetrators. That is not the case'," he added.

"I think that is a vitally important thing for her to have clarified. It is absolutely essential that she did so and I will leave her to answer her critics herself more broadly, but I think that central point is very good to hear expressed in such clear terms from her."

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