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Editor's Viewpoint

Delay over Troubles pension shames us

Editor's Viewpoint


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It may well be easier to discover a vaccine to combat coronavirus than to find an antidote to the poisonous legacy of the Troubles.  (stock photo)

It may well be easier to discover a vaccine to combat coronavirus than to find an antidote to the poisonous legacy of the Troubles. (stock photo)

It may well be easier to discover a vaccine to combat coronavirus than to find an antidote to the poisonous legacy of the Troubles. (stock photo)

It may well be easier to discover a vaccine to combat coronavirus than to find an antidote to the poisonous legacy of the Troubles. Yet again, what seemed a done deal to help those injured in the violence has become bogged down in a political wrangle.

MPs last year agreed that the scheme to pay a pension to the injured would open for applications at the end of this month, but First Minister Arlene Foster has revealed that it is being delayed until it can be agreed whether Stormont or Westminster should foot the bill, expected to be around £100m.

Westminster argues the money should come out of the Northern Ireland block grant, while Mrs Foster believes the Treasury should pay up. She is supported by Victims' Commissioner Judith Thompson, who earlier this year pointed out the scheme was open to applications from outside here.

It has been agreed that anyone injured between January 1, 1966 and April 12, 2010 can apply to a judge-led body and could be eligible for annual payments of between £2,000 and £10,000.

The injured, like the bereaved who have been waiting for many years in vain to see some mechanism for bringing them justice, truth - or both - on their loved ones' deaths, must fear that they too will become victims of political wrangling.

This scheme was set up in 2019 by Westminster while the Stormont Assembly was still not functioning and Mrs Foster makes a valid point that the UK Government should therefore foot the bill.

In this newspaper today you can read some of the harrowing stories of those injured in the Troubles - it is estimated the total could run to 40,000 - and it is shameful that they have been kept waiting so long for some recompense and now have their hopes dashed again.

However, it is clear that this issue has progressed too far to be allowed to stall indefinitely, and a warning that a legal challenge could be mounted if the scheme is not opened as planned should help to concentrate minds.

It is only with hindsight that we can fully appreciate the inhumanity of the Troubles and how a small province suffered a frenzy of killing and maiming that brought society to the edge of the abyss.

A return to humanity demands that payments should be made as soon as possible. Money will not fully recompense the injured for the trauma they and their families suffered, but it will show that society cares about them.

Belfast Telegraph