Entitlement of paramilitaries to welfare plan ‘scandalous’

The IRA's Shankill bombing of 1993 killed nine people, plus bomber Thomas Begley, and left surviving bomber Sean Kelly injured
The IRA's Shankill bombing of 1993 killed nine people, plus bomber Thomas Begley, and left surviving bomber Sean Kelly injured

Plans to help make it easier for victims of the Troubles to claim a new disability benefit have been condemned as “perverse”, after it emerged that those injured through their own violent actions would also qualify.

The TUV said that under the terms of the plans, a paramilitary who blew himself up could enjoy “preferential treatment” over a person who simply suffered a car accident.

The plans are aimed at easing the transition from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) in the Province – a move which has already taken place on mainland UK.

PIPs will operate on the basis of a points system, whereby someone claiming will need to have eight points to qualify.

Northern Ireland has seen protracted wrangles over reform of its benefits system, with Sinn Fein strongly opposed to changing it.

However, the party has since agreed to the reforms as part of the ‘Fresh Start’ political deal late in 2015, so long as mitigating measures are put in place.

A report published this week set out what these mitigating measures may involve.

It stated that the need for all PIPs recipients to have eight points to qualify “may not fully capture the consequences for claimants in Northern Ireland of conflict-related injury”.

Instead claimants with at least four points (which would not be enough to claim PIPs) will be given an automatic four-point boost – provided they can show that their injuries or ailments are Troubles-related.

The report adds: “The payments should be for a period of one year.”

However, the report makes no distinction between injuries suffered by a civilian bystander in a bombing for example, and injuries suffered by the bombers themselves (for instance, it would draw no distinction between injured Shankill bomber Sean Kelly and the other survivors of the blast).

Jim Allister, leader of the TUV said on Wednesday: “Having listened to many platitudes about victims, the reality this morning is that the DUP/Sinn Fein deal on welfare is set to give preferential treatment to terrorists who disabled themselves by their own hand.

“This is the scandalous outworking of yesterday’s [Tuesday’s] report – a bomber who injures himself will be gifted the extra welfare points to guarantee him no loss of benefits.

“Such is the perverse arrangement over which the DUP now presides. Some ‘fresh start’!

“Someone injured in a road traffic accident may only get four benefit points and lose their benefits, but a self-injured terrorist will be gifted an extra four points to preserve his benefits.

“It could only happen at Stormont.”