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Victims hit out at latest delay over Troubles pension

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Frustration: Mark Kelly lost his legs in a bombing in the 1970s

Frustration: Mark Kelly lost his legs in a bombing in the 1970s

Frustration: Mark Kelly lost his legs in a bombing in the 1970s

The Executive has been criticised for fresh delays over a pension for victims who were seriously injured during the Troubles.

Legislation was passed in Westminster last year, with Stormont given responsibility to oversee the process.

Payments had been due to begin on May 29, but yesterday First Minister Arlene Foster said there still wasn't a clear direction on who should fund the programme.

She added that the Executive was of the view that Westminster should cover the costs.

Among the hundreds who were seriously injured was Mark Kelly, who lost his legs in a bomb attack in Glengormley in the 1970s.

He has been campaigning for seven years, along with other victims, for the pensions.

Alan McBride, coordinator with the Wave Trauma Centre, said he regretted that it was still in the hands of the Executive.

"We started off by going up and down to Stormont to ask them to support us," he said.

"Most of these people lost their limbs in their early 20s so they weren't able to go into the workplace to build up pension contributions.

"Some of their original compensation payments were also derisory. But Sinn Fein and the DUP just couldn't agree about who should get that payment.

"Sinn Fein wanted it to be given to everybody, but the DUP said that if anybody was involved in terrorism, or injured through their own misfortune while planting bombs, they absolutely shouldn't get it."

He said the "standoff" only ended when Stormont collapsed in 2017 and the issue was taken up in Westminster.

"We finally got things over the line in January this year, but we regret it had to come back to Stormont," he added.

"I'm afraid we're just back to the same old deny and delay.

"There's a lack of will with the DUP and Sinn Fein fighting amongst themselves over eligibility. They're also saying Westminster should pay for it as that's where the legislation happened.

"At the end of the day you have maybe 400-500 people who were very seriously disabled in the Troubles getting nothing."

After meeting with the Executive Office yesterday, he said it became clear there had been "very little" movement since the start of lockdown.

"I wouldn't even allow them to use coronavirus as a scapegoat, as these guys were in breach of the legislation as far back as February 4, as they haven't even nominated a department to take on this payment scheme.

"Whether it's incompetence or lack of willpower, when it comes to anything remotely contested it seems to me the Stormont Executive, and the Executive Office in particular, just can't deliver."

Kenny Donaldson from the South East Fermanagh Foundation said: "Victims and survivors will be deeply aggrieved by this development, which cannot legitimately be linked to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

"Our concern, like that of other groups operating at the coalface, is the wellbeing of victims and survivors."

He added the latest delay left many in fear of "yet another false dawn".

The Executive Office did not respond to a request for comment by time of going to press.

Belfast Telegraph