UDR widow’s war pension pain

The memorial to UDR soldiers, which is located in Lisburn
The memorial to UDR soldiers, which is located in Lisburn

A Belfast woman whose UDR husband was murdered by the IRA says the withdrawal of her war pension made her feel as though her husband’s sacrifice was being erased from history.

Muriel Gray’s husband Jimmy McFall, a 40-year-old postman and UDR member, was shot by the IRA at his front door at Woodvale Avenue in west Belfast in 1977.

After her husband’s murder, Mrs Gray received a war widows pension, which helped her scrape by as she brought up their five children, then aged 10 to 16.

Her husband was buried on their daughter’s 11th birthday.

“There were no cards, no cake and no birthday. You never forget it,” she said. “It is always with you.”

However, when she remarried in 1988 the pension was stopped, which she felt as a blow against her husband’s memory.

“It made me feel as if I didn’t exist, as if these things did not happen. I felt helpless, sad and betrayed - all for the sake of a few pounds.

“My husband was out at nights for Queen and country. Often he would come in at 4am, soaking wet.”

Mrs Gray was speaking after Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United urged the public to support a campaign by MP Greg Mulholland for English woman, Susan Rimmer, whose husband was killed by the IRA and who lost her war pension when she remarried.

The war widows pensions were withdrawn from women who remarried between 1973 and 2005.

Mr Donaldson said such women often felt like “pariahs”.

He added: “The law as it stands is unjust and must be changed.”

Mrs Gray, now in her 70s, took on a part-time cleaning job after her husband died.

But she could only work irregular hours as she had to care for her five children and, as a result, does not even qualify for full state pension.

Her daughter, Ann Carson, said her mother’s new husband did not have a large wage.

“As a family, we feel there has been no recognition of Dad’s sacrifice. The pension was a small recognition of that,” she said.

It is understood some 30 UDR widows have lost their war pensions in this way.

RUC widows suffered a similar fate until a rule change in 2014.

An MOD spokeswoman responded that for those who “surrendered” their pension on remarriage prior to April 1, 2015, the pension will be reinstated if their current relationship ends.

Back the War Widows campaign petition here: http://www.wharfedaleobserver.co.uk/news/14284008.Joint_campaign_to_get_justice_for_war_widows/