Morrow challenged over benefits for injured terrorists

TUV leader Jim Allister

TUV leader Jim Allister

A Stormont minister has been challenged to exclude injured paramilitaries from welfare reform mitigation schemes.

TUV leader Jim Allister told Social Development Minister Lord Morrow that to enable “terrorists with self-inflicted injuries” to access additional benefits is “obnoxious and obscene”.

Under a £500 million package of Stormont-funded measures to support those losing out under UK Government welfare changes in Northern Ireland, individuals with conflict-related injuries are to be allocated extra points on the scale used to measure eligibility for new Personal Independence Payments.

Mr Allister told the Assembly that the proposal, which was forwarded by an independent panel chaired by professor Eileen Evason and endorsed by the Stormont Executive last month, could see injured paramilitaries securing preference over others in society.

He said such individuals should be excluded.

“Will the minister undertake to exempt from the regulations he brings those terrorists with self-inflicted injuries?,” Mr Allister asked Lord Morrow during Assembly question time.

The DUP minister replied: “Let me say to the member that he may feel that he is the only person in Northern Ireland, and certainly, the only one in the House, who has any conscience on these issues.

“Let me say this – I suspect that, if you jag us brave and deep, you will find that my views are not much different from yours.

“However, I suspect the question has more to do with gaining some cheap political points than trying to deal with real issues.

“Unfortunately, as a minister, I have to deal with real issues.

“I do not have the luxury of being critical of everything that comes across my desk.”