Man paralysed in gun attack hit with £30k care bill - pension call for Troubles victims
A man shot and paralysed in a sectarian gun attack during the Troubles 40 years ago has been threatened with legal action over his £30,000 care bill.
Kevin Rafferty was shot in June 1978. He has received a bill from the Belfast Health Trust for arrears for the cost of his care at a Dunmurry nursing home.
Mr Rafferty, who is now 65-years-old, was working at Belfast's Smithfield Market when loyalist gunmen walked in and shot him in the head.
He told the BBC: "I was shot through my left eye. The bullet was lodged close to my brain. One side of my face is paralysed, tongue included.
"It affected my speech. For several years I could not even speak."
Mr Rafferty spent 17 months in hospital where doctors saved his life but he has had to learn to live with life-changing injuries.
He is in a wheelchair, has difficulty speaking and needs round-the-clock care.
He lives on benefits and state pension but has now received a bill for around £30,000 from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust towards the cost of the care he receives at the Kilwee Care Home in Dunmurry. He has lived there for the last five years.
Mr Rafferty claims the bill arose because of changes to his benefits.
"Initially I was paying the bill no problem, but the past year or two my benefits have drastically change," he said.
"They are not what I was getting initially with all those cutbacks and all."
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust told the BBC it does not comment on individual cases.
Under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement, the Northern Ireland Executive was supposed to find a way to support severely injured victims through a pension. However it was never implemented because agreement could not be reached over the definition of a victim.
Victims commissioner Judith Thompson said in the absence of any local agreement or an assembly at Stormont it is up to Westminster to introduce the necessary legislation to grant the pension.
She said: "We need a law to be passed to make that happen. If we had a devolved administration that would be the right place for it to go.
"If we had a local assembly, they would be dealing with it. We don't. So it needs to go to Westminster.
"The Secretary of State has the power to take this to Westminster to deal with it and we would want her to do that."
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office told the BBC: "If, despite best efforts, the NI Executive has not been restored by the time updated advice on a pension has been provided by the Victims Commissioner, the government will consider how this matter can be progressed in the absence of NI executive ministers."
Belfast Telegraph Digital