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Victims' Commissioner calls for swift action over Troubles payments

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Conclusion: Judith Thompson

Conclusion: Judith Thompson

PA

Conclusion: Judith Thompson

Payments to survivors of the Troubles must be made now, the commissioner for victims has said.

Judith Thompson made the call after a long campaign by victims for the support payments, which range from £2,000 to £10,000-a-year depending on the severity of the injury.

MPs passed legislation last year to establish the scheme which had been due to open to applications on May 29, but its future has been thrown into doubt over two separate disputes.

Stormont and the Government are at odds over who foots the £100m-plus bill.

Separately, Sinn Fein are blocking the appointment of a Stormont department to oversee the scheme, due to a stand-off with the Government over eligibility criteria which would require former convicted paramilitaries to go before an independent panel to determine whether they should get the payment.

Appearing at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee yesterday, Ms Thompson said she accepts the “political decision” that people injured at their own hand should be excluded from a Troubles Pension.

She described the long running debate around the issue as “unlikely to reach a helpful conclusion”.

Ms Thompson said it “can’t be held up by a small number of people who may or may not get it”. “It is simply not good enough and needs to be implemented immediately,” she said.

Ms Thompson told the committee that investigations into Troubles incidents “should not be defined in terms of the number of prosecutions envisaged”.

“The critical issue for families is access to information about the circumstances leading to the death of someone they loved, and acknowledge of wrongness and harm,” she said.

She paid tribute to Operation Kenova, led by former Bedfordshire chief constable Jon Boutcher, as showing new information and evidence can be uncovered and families who want answers “can be better served”.

Ms Thompson added about current legacy proposals: “My concern is that victims and survivors across these islands may now be faced with legislation driven through Westminster that does little for them.

“Processes can only work if there is consultation, engagement and respect.

“It remains the commission’s view that legacy mechanisms as envisaged in the Stormont House Agreement remain the best opportunity to address the legacy of the past.”

Belfast Telegraph