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Troubles survivors delighted by High Court victory, but say case shouldn't have been necessary


Relief: Mark Kelly

Relief: Mark Kelly

Relief: Mark Kelly

More than a dozen victims and supporters gathered outside the High Court on Friday to celebrate an emphatic legal victory.

Among them was Mark Kelly, who was 18 when he lost most of both his legs in a bar bombing.

But Mr Kelly was also remembering two fellow campaigners for victims and survivors who passed away in recent weeks, and noting that time is running out for many.

"There is huge sadness, but this today is for them," the 61-year-old father-of-four said of the late Paddy Cassidy, shot in the spine near his Oldpark home in 1971, and Raymond Trimble, who suffered serious injuries in a bomb blast at the News Letter offices in 1969.

"The majority of the people who will be availing of this scheme are of a certain age and it is time to afford them some dignity," he said.

It is a view echoed by Jennifer McNern, who lost her legs in the 1972 Abercorn bombing and who led the court challenge to the failure of the Executive, and particularly Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, to nominate a department to oversee the victims' pension fund.

"None of us has time on our side," Ms McNern said following the High Court victory.

"We need our politicians to act on this now and implement the scheme."

The victims' campaigner, a leading member of the Wave Injured Group, said she was grateful for the prompt statement from Ms O'Neill announcing that she will agree to nominate a department. It came within minutes of the announcement of the court judgment.

"It lowers the anxiety levels," Ms McNern said, adding that she hopes this would be her last time at the High Court and that once the department is designated, the financing will follow soon. She wants negotiations between Westminster and the Northern Ireland government to begin immediately.

Mr Kelly, who was catastrophically injured in the 1976 bomb attack on the Glen Inn in Glengormley, said the campaign was never about politics, but added that it was wrong, both morally and legally, to hold up the payments to civilians, whatever the merits of the arguments made by Sinn Fein.

"They should not have prevented this for the majority, who are civilians. The need is great and that was wrong."

Ms McNern added that the legal win was "good news" but that she should not have had to take the case in the first place.

"I and other members of the Wave Injured Group have been campaigning for too many years, and until recently on our own, for recognition and acknowledgement for the forgotten victims and survivors of the Troubles," she said.

"None of us were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were at home with our families. We were at work. We were in a cafe having a coffee. We were coming home after a day out or an evening at the cinema.

"There were people in the wrong place and they catastrophically changed our lives for ever."

On the more than 10 year journey, the campaigner said: "This journey has been physically and emotionally draining and we could not have stuck at it especially when we were being patronised and sidelined without the support we give each other. We are a family".

Alan McBride, the co-ordinator of the Wave Injured Group, who lost his wife, Sharon, in the 1993 bombing of Frizzell's Fish Shop on the Shankill Road, said the "judgment could not be clearer".

"The Executive needs to obey the law and implement the scheme without further delay," Mr McBride said.

"It should not just be a matter of law important as that is."

He added: "There is a moral imperative to do what is right by people like Jennifer whose lives were permanently changed in an instant but for ever."

Another campaigner, Kenny Donaldson from the South East Fermanagh Foundation (Seff), said the ruling was an important step forward.

He said the pension was intended for innocent people who had been injured through no fault of their own.

"Today's ruling is a first step redress of this wrong and many more steps are needed over the coming months and years," he said.

He added: "Support must get to those who have waited so long to be acknowledged for what they have gone through and the implications that has had upon their lives and those of their families and carers."

Belfast Telegraph