Belfast Telegraph

Victims hold contrasting views on Troubles pension proposals

Noel Downey lost a leg in an IRA car bomb in Lisnaskea in 1990
Noel Downey lost a leg in an IRA car bomb in Lisnaskea in 1990
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Two people who sustained life-changing injuries during the Troubles have given sharply contrasting views on victims' pensions.

Paul Gallagher from the Wave victims group was left in a wheelchair after loyalist gunmen shot him in his home when they were unable to find his neighbour.

He said the priority needed to be to help as many victims as possible, and that there were also cases were those who did harm deserve compassion.

 

But former UDR man Noel Downey, who lost a leg in an IRA car bomb in Lisnaskea in 1990, said he was "disgusted" at the thought of a terrorist receiving the same pension as him and felt so strongly he would refuse it.

Mr Downey said: "I'm really disgusted with that, to think that the guy that put the bomb under my car could have the same pension.

"Sick is one word I would use - how can that happen?"

Mr Downey said he did not agree that the Victims' Commissioner had found the most practical way to break the political stalemate on the issue.

"She doesn't have to classify the perpetrators as victims," he said.

"I would say, give it to the real victims like myself who have been blown up and maimed.

"Nobody forced these people to go out and do what they did.

"Like others, I would feel very strongly about not accepting this pension in this way."

He added: "That's an extremely hard thing to say as well because I could be doing with this pension. It would be a great, great help to my family.

"But we have morals and it would be very hard to do."

However, Mr Gallagher said the current legal definition of a victim already allowed everyone injured in the Troubles the same help for issues like disability.

"I've been on my own journey over the years of trying to make sense of what happened to me," he said.

"I understand how this can be hard to swallow, but I think we need to start to humanise this rather than just see it as giving money to the big evil perpetrators.

"One example we're talking about was a 17-year-old in 1972.

"He was in the UDA and the Army shot through his car and he was paralysed from the neck down.

"He spent the next 45 years in his bed and died at the start of this year.

"These are the stories that are part of this.

"Then you have the wider group of people like myself who were caught up in this through no fault of our own."

He accused politicians of "kicking the can down the road" and questioned how they had agreed over tougher problems like policing, decommissioning and prisoner releases.

"If someone was living with the same pain I was living with for years, I would just feel for compassion for them, and for their family," he said.

"My family gave up so much to look after me, to help me get up in the mornings and go to the toilet.

"They need to be looked after as well. We need to deal with this in a compassionate way."

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