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Murphy ‘pursuing’ London government over funding for victims pension scheme

The payments have been delayed amid disagreement over who should fund the scheme and over who should qualify.

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Conor Murphy (Liam McBurney/PA)

Conor Murphy (Liam McBurney/PA)

Conor Murphy (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Stormont finance minister has said he is pursuing the London government to fund a compensation scheme for injured Troubles victims.

The long-awaited scheme for those who were severely injured has been delayed by political rows.

Sinn Fein refused to designate a Stormont department to administer it after objecting to Government eligibility criteria that would exclude former paramilitaries convicted of causing serious harm.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Fein) eventually agreed to nominate a department last month following a highly critical court judgment that found she had been acting unlawfully.

According to the statement of funding policy from Whitehall, the party that proposes the policy, that legislates for it, carries the cost of implementation of that policyConor Murphy

However, a separate stand-off involving the wider Stormont Executive over funding remains unresolved.

The scheme should have been open for applications at the end of May.

On Tuesday in the Assembly, finance minister Conor Murphy (Sinn Fein) said he is pursing the London government to pay for it.

“According to the statement of funding policy from Whitehall, the party that proposes the policy, that legislates for it, carries the cost of implementation of that policy,” he said.

“That’s the Executive’s position, and the people who have done that are the British government and the Northern Ireland Office.”

Mr Murphy said the current scheme is not what was agreed in 2014 at the Stormont House negotiations.

“Therefore they own it, and it’s my clear view acting on behalf of the Executive, and it’s the clear argument I have been making to Treasury and to the NIO on behalf of the Executive, that they are responsible for paying, whatever,” he said.

Justice Minister Naomi Long, whose department is administering the scheme, said the cost is estimated to be £800 million.

Mr Murphy said that figure differs from an estimate given to the Executive previously by the NIO.

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Thomas Buchanan ( Liam McBurney/PA)

Thomas Buchanan ( Liam McBurney/PA)

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Thomas Buchanan ( Liam McBurney/PA)

DUP MLA Thomas Buchanan told Mr Murphy it was “totally absurd” of his party to “seek to block the scheme”, and asked for a commitment that he will “do all that he can” to secure the funding and ensure no further delays.

Mr Murphy responded: “Well I can assure the member that is what I have been trying to do, to seek secure funding.

“I have been attempting to secure the commitment from the British government to live up to their own statement of funding policy which is part of their own rule book that they created the policy and legislated for it, therefore they own the cost.

“The real argument in relation to who pays for the scheme itself is still to be accepted by the British government and that’s what I intend to pursue, and that’s the what the Executive have asked me to pursue.”

PA