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'Nothing ever changes the past': Reopening of bereaved payments scheme welcomed

The scheme applies to individuals who have lost a parent, spouse/partner, and/or a child in Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

Bernie Morrissey, widow of Garda Sergeant Patrick Morrissey who was killed by the INLA in 1985.
Bernie Morrissey, widow of Garda Sergeant Patrick Morrissey who was killed by the INLA in 1985.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

THE REOPENING OF a payment fund for those bereaved in Northern Ireland’s troubled past has been warmly welcomed.

The Bereaved Self-Directed Assistance Payments scheme provides an annual payment to a spouse or partner, parent or child of someone who was killed, in recognition of their loss.

There had been disappointment when it closed to new applications in 2017.

Many who had not heard of the fund, from across the UK and Ireland as well as Northern Ireland, felt they had been forgotten about.

These included scores of widows who had been left to raise families by themselves after their husbands were killed.

The South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) had campaigned for the reopening of the fund.

Among those who spoke out were Judith Jenkins-Young, from South Wales, whose husband, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, was among the four soldiers killed in the Hyde Park bombing in 1982.

She said it is an issue that “needs to be put right”.

Bernie Morrissey, from Drogheda, Co Louth, the widow of Garda Sergeant Patrick Morrissey who was shot dead by the INLA during a robbery in 1985, echoed her call.

“Nothing ever changes the past but making sure that people like my husband are never forgotten, that’s very important to me,” she said.

“In terms of fair play, everybody is entitled to the same treatment.”

Lorna McCollum, from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, who lost two of her sons as well as her mother-in-law in the Troubles, also backed the campaign.

“The recognition payments are more about the recognition from government of the wrongs that were done to us,” she said.

SEFF’s director of services, Kenny Donaldson, welcomed the move but said the package of support needs to be more sustainable.

“We have listened intently to the voices of innocents bereaved as a result of terrorism and who had missed applying to the scheme prior to the previous March 2017 deadline,” he said.

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victims-of-the-northern-ireland-troubles Reginald ‘Reggie’ McCollum was abducted and killed by the IRA in 1994 Source: PA/Familyhandout

“Many felt aggrieved by this, that somehow their loss was not able to be formally acknowledged by the structures of the state. The reintroduction of this scheme goes some way to dealing with this deficit.

“However, it is clear that, going forward, there is a need for a more sustainable package of support to be provided for the bereaved, particularly those first-generation victims/survivors who are aged.

“We, along with others, will be strongly pressing that the new Strategy for Victims and Survivors places the needs of the bereaved front and centre.”

Donaldson also commended those who have spoken out while pressing for the scheme to be reopened.

“Today’s announcement is an acknowledgement for their efforts and all others who will now benefit from the scheme, administered by the Victims and Survivors Service – and who we recognise as having also pressed the need for the scheme to be reopened,” he said.

The scheme will be open to bereaved individuals who were not registered with the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) by 31 March 2017 and, therefore, are not already in receipt of the payment.

Individuals bereaved of a parent, spouse/partner, and/or child will receive a payment of £500.

Those bereaved of a spouse/partner or both parents will receive an additional needs-based payment of £500.

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