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Victims' watchdog proposes tiered Troubles pension based on injury

Judith Thompson
Judith Thompson
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Northern Ireland's Victims Commissioner has recommended that payments to those injured during the Troubles be tiered according to the severity of their injury.

Judith Thompson today said that Westminster must pass legislation to introduce a pension for those suffering the most serious and permanent mental and physical injuries.

Publishing her advice to the Government on a pension, she recommended that it be dated back to the December 2014 Stormont House Agreement. Recipients would be those unable to work or earn their own pension due to conflict-related injuries.

The pension could be passed on to a spouse, dependant or carer for their lifetime. Qualification would be extended to those injured but not living in Northern Ireland.

Ms Thompson said: "While there are political sensitivities around eligibility for a pension, this move has the support of all political parties in Stormont and in Westminster.

"I am clear that these recommendations are a fair and reasonable response to supporting the needs of those who suffered the most.

"There is now a moral obligation on Government to ensure this modest pension arrangement is introduced as quickly as possible to allow those people who qualify to access it as quickly as possible.

"Their suffering increases by the day and their time is running out."

Ms Thompson added: "We cannot allow this to continue to be a political football and the Government cannot kick this issue down the road any longer."

Paul Gallagher, who was paralysed from the waist down in a UDA gun attack in his west Belfast home in 1994, said: "People like me survived, only just, but survive we did. But this has meant a life of struggle.

"I have lived in chronic pain ever since. I need round-the-clock care from my family.

"An injured pension would help secure my present and my future. I have been unable to secure full-time employment since that day in January 1994. I want to work but my broken body has been an obstacle.

"I ask our Government to do the right thing and support those whose lives were unspeakably and permanently changed by the Troubles."

Jennifer McNern, who lost her legs in the IRA's no-warning Abercorn restaurant bomb in 1972, said the lack of disability legislation meant she was unable to return to work.

She was "reduced to living off the welfare state" and lost her home. "This pension would relieve a lot of stress and worry about the future. It would give me security and a sense of dignity in my old age," she said.

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