Belfast Telegraph

London has betrayed all Troubles victims over pensions: survivor of UFF attack

Campaigner Paul Gallagher
Campaigner Paul Gallagher

By Rebecca Black

A man who was left with life-changing injuries after being shot by UFF terrorists has claimed that the UK Government has let down victims over pensions.

Paul Gallagher from west Belfast was just 21 when he was shot on January 6, 1994.

No one has ever been convicted over the attack, but Mr Gallagher said he was more concerned about the future than working to get people put into jail for just a couple of years.

He has been campaigning to secure a pension for victims for the last eight years, and said he was disappointed that there had been no mention of victims in the leaked draft talks agreement last week.

He insisted that the British and Irish Governments have a big responsibility towards victims.

"Most of what was contained in the Stormont House Agreement for victims needed legislation at Westminster, so it is irrelevant whether there is an Assembly here," he said.

"I am even more frustrated that the consultation which is supposed to be coming out from the NIO has excluded the pension from it, even though it was part of the Stormont House Agreement.

"They say the pension is a devolved matter, not a legacy issue, but you couldn't have a more physical manifestation of the legacy than people who are severely injured.

"It's more frustrating for me that the Government has let people down, rather than the parties. I have been up and down to Stormont for the last eight years campaigning for a pension.

"It is something that should have been done."

Mr Gallagher said the main parties were caught up in a "zero sum game" where if they make concessions, "the other side will be seen to have won".

"They can't make decisions, and one has to balance out against the other instead of just doing things for the greater good," he added.

"Getting votes is their game and they have got caught in that quagmire.

"The way they do it a lot of the time is selling fear, and people are buying into that. Selling peace is a lot harder to do."

However, as the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement approaches, he said he wouldn't hesitate in voting 'yes' again.

"It was raw for me at the time, but I think when it had got to that stage I knew there was a price to pay for peace in the end," he said.

"I didn't hestitate to vote yes. I knew straightaway it was going to involve people getting out of jail, especially the likes of Johnny Adair, who had only been put in jail in 1995 for directing terrorism.

"That would have involved the attack on me because the UFF were responsible. Adair more than likely ordered it.

"They were there to attack my neighbours, but they didn't turn up so I got shot instead, the token innocent Catholic. They weren't leaving without taking somebody.

"That was the way it worked at the time. They had a slogan, 'Yabba dabba doo, any Taig will do'. It was well-known, they were going around shooting as many innocent Catholics, the more the better."

Mr Gallagher said while he wouldn't say he forgives the gunmen, he no longer holds on to the anger he held initially.

"Coming into the ceasefires in 1994 and the peace talks, I was for peace, compromise and some sort of agreement," he added.

"Seeing the bigger picture and realising that, yeah, I was angry after what happened to me; it was righteous anger, but I couldn't hold on to that. I had to let it go for the good of the rest of society and for the good of myself as well.

"People say to me: 'Did you forgive them?'. It's a religious term that I wouldn't really use, but I think for me, I had to forgive myself, if that makes sense. It was more letting go of the anger and hatred of these people and trying to see the bigger picture.

"Looking back on it, that's what a society like ours, coming out of conflict, needs. We need to look at the bigger picture and not get stuck in our own victimhood.

"That includes the paramilitaries, the State and security forces, it includes us all, we all have to be honest with ourselves about being involved with this place. We all live here, we have to work together."

Belfast Telegraph


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