Belfast Telegraph

Shankill bomb victims' daughter in petition to block terrorist pensions

Petition: Michelle Williamson
Petition: Michelle Williamson

By Mairead Holland

A woman who lost her parents in the Shankill bombing has started an online petition urging the Government not to pay pensions to injured terrorists.

Michelle Williamson (52) was orphaned when her dad George and mum Gillian were caught up in an IRA explosion at Frizzell's fish shop on October 23, 1993.

They had been buying fish for their tea.

Ms Williamson, who has spoken in the past of the devastating impact the atrocity has had on her life, believes pensions should be for victims and not for perpetrators.

She launched the petition after it was confirmed this week that a small number of people injured while carrying out attacks are among those eligible to apply for the payment.

The proposals were revealed by Victims' Commissioner Judith Thompson on Wednesday, when her advice on the pension arrangement was published.

Her recommendation has prompted a backlash from some victims and politicians.

Others, however, support the plan and do not want to see the payments held up any longer.

In her online post, Ms Williamson branded the plans a "farce".

She said a pension for injured victims of the Troubles has been long overdue, but a pension that "includes payments to the killers as victims" is "just wrong". "Would America pay a pension to Bin Laden's family or perhaps the family of Timothy McVeigh? Yet this is exactly what (the Victims Commissioner) is proposing," she added.

Osama bin Laden masterminded the September 11 attacks in New York, which killed and injured thousands, while Timothy McVeigh carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

By yesterday afternoon the number of signatures had passed the 3,000 mark, with the target set at 5,000.

The petition will be presented to Prime Minister Theresa May.

Ms Thompson said legislation must be passed at Westminster to introduce payments. She said: "While I acknowledge that there are sensitivities around eligibility for a pension, I am also very conscious that we have broad political agreement that this needs to be done for these people.

"We have a clear moral imperative to do it and there needs to be implementation now."

She recommended the pension be paid in a tiered approach according to the severity of the injury, and backdated to the December 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

The number of perpetrators who would be eligible is believed to be fewer than 10, but their inclusion has halted political progress for years.

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