Belfast Telegraph

Victims of terror need full support

By Jeffrey Donaldson

The anger of Gemma Berezag at any proposal which would offer a pension to someone who was involved in the act of terrorism that left her husband Zaoui blind, paralysed, brain-damaged and with only one leg is fully understandable.

Any such proposal would be strongly opposed by the vast majority of victims who suffered at the hands of terrorism.

Let me be clear that there has never been any proposal within the Bill the DUP will bring before the Northern Ireland Assembly which would award pensions to people convicted of terrorist offences.

We are very clear that such a pension will be paid to the innocent victims of terrorism - not those who perpetrated those acts.

Under statute, the Bill being brought forward by my colleague Brenda Hale MLA can only cover victims in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, victims in other parts of the United Kingdom suffer the same hardships and deserve to be treated equally.

This can only be dealt with at Westminster and we will be meeting the Secretary of State to ask that similar legislation be introduced in Parliament.

I will also be meeting with a victims' group representing those on the mainland who suffered at the hands of republican terrorists to see how we can support them in taking their case forward.

While the story carried by the Sunday Express newspaper was inaccurate, it did highlight the issues faced by severely injured victims and the hurt which would be caused to so many people if those involved in terrorist violence were to be included in any pension proposals.

I would hope that Gemma Berezag's words will be heard by both the Prime Minister and all MLAs here in Northern Ireland. Our Government should listen to them and bring forward proposals which would help those victims who cannot be included within the Northern Ireland Bill.

Equally, here in Northern Ireland, I sincerely hope that MLAs can reflect on the pain which Gemma has expressed, but which is shared by many other innocent victims who continue to live with the suffering brought upon them by those who chose to engage in terrorism.

  • Jeffrey Donaldson is DUP MP for Lagan Valley

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