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Sinn Fein's Kelly rejects UK Government claim party behind Troubles pension delay

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Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly has rejected the UK Government's claim his party is behind a hold up of issuing pensions for those victims of the Troubles.

Legislation was passed in Westminster to bring about the scheme. However, there have been disagreements if London or Belfast should foot the bill and a week after it should have opened, there is no overarching structure in place to administer the scheme.

Sinn Fein has refused to nominate a department to handle the scheme, with Conor Murphy's finance department understood to have already been earmarked by the Executive.

The party argues the legislation discriminates as anyone with a conviction with a jail term over two-and-a-half years would be excluded irrespective of if they were involved in the Troubles, or not.

However, the DUP says the regulations only exclude those injured by something they did, such as a bomber injured while setting the device.

Mr Kelly told the BBC his party also had concerns over the funding for the scheme with estimates of £100million in the first three years.

"It is the British Government who have brought in these regulations, without consultation, to be discriminatory, and all they are interested in is to protect one section of victims.

"The regulations are discriminatory and unacceptable.

"The issue was around perhaps a small amount of people. But what they have done quite deliberately is expand that out for anyone - and it does not have to be conflict related - for anyone who with a sentence of two-and-a-half years or more will not be eligible."

DUP MLA and Economy Minister Diane Dodds said the argument have caused great hurt and harm to people.

She called on Sinn Fein to "honour their responsibilities" and stop putting "victims through the mill over and over again and nominate a department".

"They should get on and stop prevaricating and treat victims with some compassion," she said.

"The pensions was a massive step forward for victims and they are angry and frustrated this is being held up and we are back revisiting arguments like this.

"The victims' pension is open to everyone from all backgrounds and traditions. The people who it is not open to is those that have been injured by their own actions."

Alliance leader and Justice Minister Naomi Long said the scheme should begin to allow people to apply so there is no longer a delay and they could examine the details of it later.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said it was "pretty shameful" of Sinn Fein to try to re-open the definition of a victim describing the hold-up as "dreadful".

Belfast Telegraph