New proposals have been published for setting up pension payments to victims of Troubles violence.
From today (Wednesday), the public are being asked to have their say on the planned law, which would specifically exclude those hurt as a result of their own paramilitary activities.
The law is being drawn up by the DUP, which said that a consultation into the proposals will run until late August before it ultimately brings the plan to the Stormont Assembly in the form of a Private Members’ Bill.
The DUP’s move follows a string of recommendations on “dealing with the past” unveiled by victims’ commissioner Kathryn Stone earlier this year, including the call for a dedicated pensions for Troubles victims – something that has been mooted for years.
But the commissioner did not set out who they thought should be included – or excluded – under the scheme, saying this was for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) to make a decision on.
A further detailed breakdown of how her scheme should work is expected to be presented early next month to OFMDFM.
As of today, the DUP’s own independent plans should be up on the party’s website, followed by a questionnaire on the proposals.
Among the questions posed are at what age victims should be able to draw such a pension and whether, at this stage, it should be limited to those who have suffered severe physical injuries.
It also goes on to ask whether respondents agree with excluding the following categories of people from the scheme: “Persons who were wholly or partly responsible for the criminal act which resulted in their physical disability”, “Persons who are, or ever have been, convicted of membership of a proscribed organisation”, and “Anyone who has been convicted of an offence connected to terrorism or who has been convicted of a serious criminal act connected to a conflict-related incident”.
Whatever the responses to that question, a spokesman from the DUP said that the party will push to make sure that no-one who was “responsible for creating victims” is eligible for the scheme.
At present, there is firm figure for how much such a pension could be worth.
The plans are to be brought forward as a Private Members’ Bill, similar to last year’s TUV-instigated “Ann’s Law”.
That law banned those with serious terrorist convictions from serving as highly-paid special advisors in Stormont.
It was nick-named after Ann Travers, whose sister was murdered by the IRA and who had been forced to watch as a woman convicted in relation to that killing was later appointed a special advisor to Sinn Fein.
Introducing the pension plan as a Private Member’s Bill, rather than via the normal ministerial route, would mean it could be passed even without the backing of Sinn Fein – although it would still require a commitment from the SDLP not to block it in order to make it through a vote in the Assembly.