Hundreds of those most seriously injured in the Troubles could receive a new pension, Northern Ireland’s Victims’ Commissioner has said.
Kathryn Stone said that the proposal has been discussed with Stormont ministers and their advisers and there is considerable backing for the scheme.
However, it is unclear whether terrorists injured by their own devices — who under the law are classified as victims — could benefit.
If the plan is agreed by the Executive it would likely take between one and two years for the legislation to be written and make its way through the Assembly.
Ms Stone told the News Letter: “We’re still in the process of finalising that but I can say in general terms that there is international precedent in other countries that have come through a period parallel to the Troubles for those who were seriously injured to receive a regular income...to ensure that people who are seriously injured are not further disadvantaged by their injury.”
She said that someone injured in an explosion decades ago would have received a “derisory” level of compensation and also may have lost the opportunity to continue to progress in their careers and build up a pension.
“For many of those who have been seriously injured that we’ve spoken to, the idea that people would be financially disadvantaged and not able to enjoy the rights and benefits of proper occupational pensions and proper care just doesn’t seem right.
“It’s on that basis that we’ve put forward – together with the WAVE injured group – proposals for a pension. We’re finalising that.”
The commissioner added: “It’s correct to say that broadly there is [political] support for that because nobody wants to see those who were seriously injured during the Troubles being further disadvantaged.”
She said that approximately 500 to 600 of those most seriously injured during the Troubles who are still alive would be eligible for the payments and that individuals would need to be assessed to decide if they were eligible – a process similar to assessments for disability benefits.
She admitted that assessing injuries against a set scale of “levels of disablement” sounded “terrible” and a “crude, clinical thing” but said that it was necessary to get the money to those eligible for it.
The legal definition of a victim encompasses anyone injured or killed during the Troubles. When asked if that meant that terrorists injured while planting a bomb could be eligible for the pension, Ms Stone said: “We’re still finalising the advice that we’re going to give to ministers and those are questions that will need to be considered very, very carefully. Of course, we are aware that the definition is something that is morally contested and politically controversial... we as a commission can only work within the definition that is there in legislation.”