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Northern Ireland Troubles victims 'may get a payment, not a pension'

Confusion: Axel Schmidt
Confusion: Axel Schmidt

By David Young

Victims of Troubles-related terrorism may get a payment, not a pension, a campaign group has said.

Ulster Human Rights Watch, which is funded by the Victims and Survivors Service and the EU, said the government appears to be moving away from providing pensions to innocent victims of terrorist acts and may instead be looking at one or more payments.

The group said a payment instead of a pension is included in a report drafted by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) on progress made towards the formation of an Executive.

The NIO report has now been laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith.

In follow-up work since the advice published by the Northern Ireland Victims and Survivors in May, the NIO has prepared 'detailed advice on the proposed architecture of the scheme,' the group said.

This work has looked at who would benefit and who would be excluded, with those injured in a Troubles-related incident and convicted of playing a role in orchestrating it being ineligible for a payout.

The work also examined levels and methods of payments, technical and practical details of the scheme, as well as how an appeals process could work.

If an Executive is not formed by October 21, it is understood that the Secretary of State will make regulations by the end of January that will come into force by the end of May next year.

Axel Schmidt, advocacy support manager at Ulster Human Rights Watch, said: "There is some confusion as to whether or not we are now talking about a payment or payments or a pension. It would be helpful if this could be cleared up by the Secretary of State or the NIO.

"We have consistently opposed pensions for terrorists who victimised innocent people and take some consolation from seeing an exclusion being built into the scheme.

"Terrorists injured in a Troubles-related incident, and convicted of playing a role in an attack, can never qualify for a pension or payment.

"That would be abhorrent and hugely insulting to innocent victims of terrorism.

"Clearly, there is considerable work under way to meet the January and May deadlines, but at this stage, Ulster Human Rights Watch is giving its qualified support to what is stated in this report to Parliament."

A UK government spokesperson said: "The government's top priority is to see the Executive restored. But if the Executive is not restored by October 21 the government will be under a legal duty to implement various changes required by the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Act. We will set out more details about how we will implement these changes in the days ahead."

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