A man left with terrible injuries after the IRA bombed his car has spoken of his delight at receiving an MBE at Buckingham Palace this week.
However, Alex Bunting said that the on going task of trying to secure a special pension for Troubles victims – something he has been pushing for over the course of several years – is much more important to him than even the royal accolade.
Mr Bunting was originally a taxi driver from the loyalist-dominated Sandy Row district of Belfast, just to the south of the city centre.
On October 21, 1991, a bomb planted under his car detonated as he was driving, propelling coins he kept in a box at his feet into his body.
The blast cost him his entire left leg, and his right one was badly damaged.
He lost his livelihood and attempted suicide, but since went on to speak publicly about the trauma he underwent, and joined the Victims and Survivors Forum.
He was at Buckingham Palace on Thursday where he was honoured for his work for Troubles victims.
The MBE was presented by Prince William, and Mr Bunting (in his 60s) was among scores of recipients – among them Victoria Beckham, alongside spouse David – at the palace.
“It was a great honour, and I was very humbled,” he said on Friday, joking that he could scarcely understand the English accents of those at the palace.
He said he “near dropped dead” when he received a letter around mid-November telling him he would get an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list – and said “the worst bit about it is you have to keep it secret!”.
For years, he has argued for a pension exclusively for victims of Troubles crimes to help them deal with their injuries and trauma.
He said the number of people who would be eligible is constantly dropping, and is now under 500.
This is even dearer to his heart than the MBE, he said, “without a shadow of a doubt”.
“In the grand scheme of things it’s the pensions for the people – that would be my big achievement in life. That’d mean more to me than anything else.”