Ex-UDR man’s legacy submission

Ex-UDR man Noel Downey suffered extensive injuries in an IRA car bomb and says a victims pension would support him in his deterioating health. Photo: Pacemaker.
Ex-UDR man Noel Downey suffered extensive injuries in an IRA car bomb and says a victims pension would support him in his deterioating health. Photo: Pacemaker.

A ex-UDR man says the government consultation on the past should distinguish him from the IRA bomber who maimed him - and assist him financially in his failing health.

Maguiresbridge man Noel Downy was an HGV driver and part-time member of the UDR when the IRA planted a bomb under his car outside a pub in Lisnaksea in 1982. He lost a leg and suffered extensive injuries, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“The issues we raised in our submission included the government definition of a victim - which currently equates me to the IRA man who booby-trapped my car,” he said. “This issue was not looked at properly in this consultation at all.

“Victims have been forgotten about for far too long. So we went to the offices of the Northern Ireland Office on Friday to hand in our submission, saying we should not be forgotten about any longer.”

Noel would be keen to receive the proposed pension for seriously injured victims.

“I had to learn to walk again on one leg, and because my hand was seriously injured, I had to learn to write again with the other one.”

He could no longer work as an HGV driver or soldier.

“Both jobs went out the window. There was nothing else I could do. I had no office qualifications and could not do lifting due my skins grafts and wounds. I was thrown on the scrap heap at 27.”

He went on to marry his girlfriend at the time, Helen, who has been their main breadwinner ever since, raising two daughters together throughout the physical, mental and financial challenges.

But with his deteriorating health, he is almost 54, she can only work part-time as her caring responsibilities for him slowly mount up.

“I feel I am slowing down,” Noel said. “I am in and out of hospital with one thing after another. I am going to need more care as time goes on. You don’t know what is around the corner.”

The big stumbling block for some is that those with terrorist backgrounds are also claiming the pension.

“That is the big concern we have. We are looking at a situation where the guy that planted the bomb under my car could claim that doing that traumatised him and he could claim the same pension as me.”

Noel was among representatives of five victims groups that presented submissions on the current government consultation on the past to the Northern Ireland Office in person on Friday.

The groups were the South East Fermanagh Foundation from Lisnaskea, MAST in Kilkeel, the South and East Tyrone Welfare Support Group in Moygashel, Decorum NI from Bangor and the MUVE Project in Cookstown.

The submissions from the five groups called on government to accept a five-point ‘Victims Covenant’, and legislate for;-

1) Statutory definition of victim to exclude terrorists

2) Pension for innocent victims

3) Mental health trauma service

4) Exempt victims from reliving terrorism for Personal Independence Payments

5) Seriously injured victims must have access to justice, truth and accountability pathways ‘previously denied them’.

See also: DUP presses to exclude terrorists from statutory definition of Troubles victim