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Troubles' victims call for full review of support and an end to marginalisation

By Lauren Harte

Victims of the Troubles launched a covenant yesterday which calls for a range of measures to end their "marginalisation" by government.

The document was developed by the South East Fermanagh Foundation's advocacy support service in conjunction with partner groups across the victim and survivor sector.

They are calling for delivery on a number of issues including a review of the current definition of victim and its replacement to take account of the issue of innocence.

They also want to see a pension for people who were seriously injured through no fault of their own, a mental trauma service and access to justice, truth and accountability pathways previously denied them.

The group is further calling for a review of the operations of the PIP benefit (Personal Independence Payment) and say those seriously injured should not have to undergo an assessment process where they are forced to relive Troubles-related events.

Five victims groups also submitted their responses to the current public consultation on legacy issues.

SEFF director Kenny Donaldson said victims of the Troubles have been marginalised and overlooked by government.

"There have been minimal advancements made around their needs and rights to reparations, access to justice and broader welfare related issues.

"We have become deeply concerned at the politicised arguments which have prevailed to date and which have prevented innocents from being supported as is the duty of this State.

"We submit that the Northern Ireland Office legacy structures offered an opportunity for some redress to be made, but sadly the current proposals are a continuation of what has gone before - the injured are not viewed a priority."

Mr Donaldson says the UK Government's view that pensions for the seriously injured and a mental trauma service are devolved matters is not sustainable against a backdrop of limited prospect of a timely return of the Executive.

"The overarching improvement in reconciliation and good relations within the community can't be achieved by a dismissive approach to innocent victims and survivors and their legitimate issues."

Among those backing the move is ex-UDR soldier Carl Dodds (64) from Newtownabbey who survived an assassination attempt on April 6 1989 in Belfast.

Mr Dodds was shot once in the chest and the bullet bounced off his collar-bone, through his lung and hit his spine, leaving him paralysed from the waist down and requiring a wheelchair.

The father-of-three was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and says he has not had a full night sleep in three decades.

"Your brain doesn't want to shut down. The memory never leaves you from the moment that you are affected. I don't know of a day when this hasn't impacted on my life.

"When I was injured I was given a prognosis of 30 years and you would like to see these issues sorted out before your expiry date comes along."

He added: "We want the politicians back around the table so they can give our proposals serious consideration and adapt them into legislation. None of the victims are getting any younger."

His view is shared by former security forces member Mervyn Lewers (60) from Londonderry who survived an under-car booby-trap bomb attack on May 22 1988 in which he lost his left leg.

"I returned to Northern Ireland four years ago, after many years in Canada.

"Three decades on I would have liked to see things moved further along but nothing has changed. Victims are getting older yet they are still being left behind."

The NIO has said it will consider the group's proposals.

Belfast Telegraph

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