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Troubles pensions: 'That one political party is holding this up is an insult'


Peter Heathwood was shot by loyalist terrorists in a case of mistaken identity

Peter Heathwood was shot by loyalist terrorists in a case of mistaken identity

Peter Heathwood was shot by loyalist terrorists in a case of mistaken identity

For Claire Monteith, the anniversary of the day her brother's life was taken comes and goes, but the memories are with her every day.

Twenty-two years after the Omagh bomb claimed Alan Radford (15) as one of its victims, the anguish goes on.

Today Claire will mark another anniversary by visiting her brother's grave to lay flowers in the memorial garden in the Co Tyrone town, but in the background a row about a victims' pension rumbles on, long-promised but never delivered.

While the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has clarified how an independent body will assess eligibility, for Claire the time for such small steps has passed.

"There shouldn't even be a discussion about this. It should not be up for debate," she said.

"My mother walks around the town here and everywhere she goes there is a memory of Alan.

"For 22 years she has passed the primary school he attended, saw the uniforms of the students that he once wore.

"She is the one who shared the last moments with her son. She is the one who deserves recognition for the suffering that continues day after day.

"That one political party is arguing over who deserves the pension is an insult to the many innocents and their families who have suffered for so long.

"There's only one party holding this pension back and that's Sinn Fein.

"In the end, it's people like me, like my family, who are left feeling like second-class citizens in all this. We are the ones who are left feeling discriminated against, denied, while others seek to demand rights for those who set out to murder.

"I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not."

Peter Heathwood, who was left in a wheelchair after a mistaken identity shooting on the Cliftonville Road in September 1979 by loyalist terrorists, has been involved in the campaign for a pension for over a decade.

Arriving at the scene of the shooting, Peter's father saw his son being carried from the house in a body bag - all the ambulance crew had to lift him. Thinking he had been killed, he died from a heart attack at the scene.

Plagued with guilt over opening the door to gunmen, Peter's wife passed away aged just 51.

"For now, this is just more words from the NIO. What we need is to hear that a department has been appointed to administer the pension and that a date has been set for applications," Peter said.

"It needs to open now. We're all fed up saying the same thing time after time. This isn't a political issue for us. It's a moral issue. We have been left devastated by the lack of progress, especially since we thought the pension had been secured."

Belfast Telegraph