| 8.5°C Belfast

Thousands call on Government to support Northern Ireland's injured Troubles victims

Stormont and Westminster are facing renewed pressure for an effective strategy to help thousands of people injured during the Troubles.

A victims' group is organising a campaign aimed at highlighting the plight of thousands injured during three decades of conflict, including the need for compensation. A petition is being prepared demanding action, which will be sent to Justice Minister David Ford and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson.

So far around 7,000 have signed up but the Wave Trauma Centre hopes to increase the total to 10,000 by the end of October.

Wave spokesman Alan McBride said: "It is not to say that the Government has done nothing, they have been quite pro-active in some areas but the fact is that what is in place is not working for the greater number of these people."

A self-appointed group of injured individuals which meets at Wave admits, and welcomes, that some work has been done to meet the needs of those still suffering after many years.

But they argue gaps in provision has left some victims and survivors better looked after than others.

Their Campaign For Recognition believes the long-standing status quo is unfair and is aiming to rectify it by actively campaigning for recognition for all victims and survivors of the Troubles.

Mr McBride, who lost his wife Sharon and father-in-law Desmond Frizzell in the IRA Shankill fish shop attack 18 years ago, argued: "It is time to move on from the question of who did what to whom, we must now begin to address the issues and pain which have been left behind."

Mr McBride recently took part in a Channel Four programme where he met Gerry Adams.

The IRA Shankill blast killed 10 people in all, including Thomas Begley who helped plant the bomb. Mr Adams was a pallbearer at Begley's funeral.

Now a member of the Northern Ireland's Victims' Forum, Mr McBride said: "Quite rightly there has been an awful lot of focus on those who died in the Troubles, but there are many others who feel they have been forgotten."

The campaigners say there should be "inclusive and equal recognition" for the injured but refuse to become involved in the controversy over whether perpetrators - paramilitaries, for example - can be equated to victims.

Future "recognition" payments or benefits in kind must be financial in part and practical in terms of support services, the group said, with the immediate implementation of a "comprehensive needs assessment".

"The campaign believes there has been too much dithering on this issue," it said.

The group is also seeking interim payments for those who are aged 65 and over or with terminal injuries.

"Many people cannot wait for the Campaign For Recognition to be complete," a leaflet said.

"(We) take the view that victims and survivors bore the brunt of the violence during the Troubles and therefore should be well looked after in the new society that is emerging.

"This also applies to their immediate families and those that took on a caring role."

Belfast Telegraph