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'This is not a pension for terrorists': Troubles perpetrators will not receive victim compensation

Concerns were raised over those who were injured by their own hand receiving the pension.

DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly speaking in the House of Commons on 22 July.
DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly speaking in the House of Commons on 22 July.
Image: Parliament Live TV

REPUBLICAN AND LOYALIST paramilitaries who were injured by their own hand during the Troubles will not receive victim compensation under new scheme, MP John Penrose confirmed today. 

Speaking in the House of Commons, Conservative MP Penrose cleared up the “worrying misconceptions” that terrorists would receive victim compensation as part of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill.

The Bill will be enacted into law in October if an Executive is not formed, with this particular clause taking effect in May 2020. 

Stormont has now been without government for two-and-a-half years. The victim compensation amendment was passed in UK Parliament last Thursday along with several others, including provisions for abortion and same-sex marriage. 

Criteria

The victim compensation clause states that the Secretary of State must establish a scheme under Northern Irish law that provides for “one or more payments to be made to, or in respect of, a person who has sustained an injury as a result of a Troubles-related incident”. 

Lawmakers will set out the regulations of the payment scheme by end-January 2020 with it coming into effect in May 2020, unless an Executive in Northern Ireland is formed on or before 21 October 2019. 

The criteria for those eligible for these payments will relate to the nature and extent of the injury, when it was sustained, the person’s nationality and whether or not a person has been convicted of an offence. This final criteria was the section that made people believe those convicted of Troubles-related crimes could be eligible.

However, speaking today in the House of Commons, Penrose said: “It remains the government’s position that while it is right and proper to provide a pension for victims of Troubles related terrorist incidents, this should not become a pension for terrorists.

“There is no moral equivalence between a bystander badly injured in a terrorist explosion through no fault of their own and the people who manufacture the bomb, place the bomb and detonate the bomb.

“The eligibility for the scheme will reflect the basic principle for which I have just outlined.”

Concerns had been raised over the eligibility terms of the victim compensation by MPs such as Conservative Maria Caulfield. 

Several victim groups earlier today called for the NI victims’ commissioner Judith Thompson to resign over her pension proposals for the Bill.

Thompson denied the accusation that her proposals would see terrorists getting compensation for their injuries by their own hand. 

‘Forgotten victims of the Troubles’

Dennis Godfrey from the WAVE Trauma Centre, however, told TheJournal.ie that this clause will make a “huge difference” to those who need it. 

“We have been arguing for nearly 10 years that there should be recognition for those who were severely injured by the Troubles,” said Godfrey.

The WAVE Trauma Centre is a cross community support group for victims and survivors of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

“One group missing almost entirely from the discussion are the people affected… These people have been very much the forgotten victims of the Troubles,” said Godfrey.

In terms of the amount by which victims would be compensated, Godfrey estimated the highest would be £10,000 (€11,127) a year. The group has been advocating for around £150 (€167) pension a week for victims. 

“It shouldn’t be means tested and it shouldn’t take away from other benefits,” said Godfrey.

“We want to make sure that anyone who was injured will have access to services like the NHS and mental trauma services. The pension is not a service.”

It is estimated that around 500 people have sustained severe physical injuries from the Troubles and hundreds more suffer with psychological injuries. Of the 500, 10 are believed to have sustained their injuries by their own hand. 

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First proposals

The victim compensation Bill was first proposed by DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly in May 2018. It is backdated to the December 2014 Stormont House Agreement. 

In the 2014 agreement, it was stated that further work would be undertaken on the proposal of a pension for those who were “severely physically injured” in Northern Ireland. 

Little-Pengelly’s Bill was originally titled ‘Acts of terrorism by an unconnected person or organisation’. 

In presenting this bill in 2018, the MP said:

I do not wish to dwell for long on the definition of victim issue, save to say that to me this is very straightforward. The terrorist, who drives a van into crowds of people, who wields the knife, who shoots to kill and plants the bomb, is not a victim, even if he is killed in doing so. To me, that is absolutely clear and right.

Speaking today, she said terrorists receiving compensation is “fundamentally wrong”. 

“There are many very challenging and difficult issues relating to the legacy in Northern Ireland, but what we must never lose sight of is what is right and what is clearly wrong,” said Little-Penngelly. 

“This is something that has caused deep distress for many, many years, particularly over the past week.” 

“There is more work to be done, but we are at least in sight. We are on the final lap,” MP John Penrose said today in the House of Commons. 

“For victims who will qualify, it is important that we also agree and understand that there are valid and very serious conditions that can be non-physical and we would not want to exclude people who have ended up with mental illness.”

Similarly, members of dissident groups who have mental or non-physical injuries from the Troubles will also not be able to access compensation. 

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