Victims Commission publishes ‘Troubles pension’ proposal paper

Victims Commissioner Kathryn Stone
Victims Commissioner Kathryn Stone

A proposal to give everyone seriously injured during the Troubles some form of pension has been published by the Commission for Victims and Survivors.

The recommendation is contained in a new paper focusing on how Northern Ireland society should deal with legacy issues from the Troubles.

As the existing legal definition of a victim would be used to decide on eligibility, former terrorists could potentially qualify for a payout.

A similar proposal contained in the 2010 Eames-Bradley report – to pay £12,000 to victims of all backgrounds – was met with a hostile response from the majority of victims’ groups.

When responses to Eames-Bradley were invited, a total of 20 out of 28 organisations opposed the payment with only eight supporting it – and all but five of the 174 individuals who responded also rejected the proposal.

Other key proposals in the latest report include:

• the creation of an Acknowledgement Unit to provide official apologies to victims who have never had any formal recognition of their pain and suffering;

• an Independent Commission for Information Retrieval;

• and the establishment of an overarching Historical Investigations Unit.

The paper follows almost two years of consultations with victims’ groups and various individuals.

Victims commissioner Kathryn Stone said she was recommending the immediate implementation of the pension and the Acknowledgement Unit.

“We cannot wait any longer to answer the call for action from victims and survivors and if we have learned anything from the events of the last week, from the reaction not just of the La Mon, McGurk’s Bar, Ballymurphy and McConville families, but all victims, it is that lasting and meaningful peace is not possible until we address their needs,” she said.

“The current definition [of a victim] makes no distinction between different groups of people, and I know that it’s controversial, but we have to operate within the framework of the legislation,” Ms Stone told the News Letter.

The commissioner said that the majority of victims felt the possibility of a small number [that they deemed unsuitable] benefitting should not “derail the prospect of the majority having dignity in their later years”.

Ms Stone also said that while there was some consistency with previous reports, this was not a “re-hash” of Eames-Bradley or Haass.

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United questioned the timing of the document’s publication.

“As we understand many members of the commission’s own victims forum have significant difficulties with the proposals flowing from the document and in fact, as we understand, many individuals were unwilling to sign off on the document. The needs and position of our constituency which was vociferously relayed at CVSNI’s DWP (Dealing With the Past) conference in February is not represented in these proposals,” he said.

“The key recommendations – with the exception of the pension for the seriously injured – are core Haass process proposals.

“CVSNI and their employers in OFMDFM have not learnt from the lessons of Eames-Bradley. In believing that providing a pension to perpetrators like their innocent victims is somehow acceptable is warped and deeply miscalculated.”