And still we wait for action over Troubles pension cash

Paul Gallagher, loyalist gun attack survivor
Paul Gallagher, loyalist gun attack survivor

The Government has assured those campaigning for a pension for those severely injured during the Troubles “they have not been forgotten and... we’ll move forward”.

Northern Ireland Office minister Lord Duncan of Springbank was speaking at the end of a debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday during which former Secretary of State (SoS) for Northern Ireland Peter Hain, now Lord Hain of Neath said: “There must be a total commitment to legislate for the severely injured. If the local parties will not get into government and do the job themselves, we must do it here”.

Lord Hain reminded the Government that he had withdrawn an amendment to a Northern Ireland Bill in November 2018 “…on the promise that the Government would legislate for it (a pension for the severely injured) by the end of the summer”.

Speaking directly to Lord Duncan who had given that promise he asked: “Will he give that assurance here tonight as well?”

In March members of the WAVE Injured Group brought their photographic exhibition ‘Injured On That Day’ to Westminster where actor and WAVE patron James Nesbitt urged MPs and peers to do right by the injured and legislate for a special pension for those severely injured during the Troubles.

Lord Hain said: “They came across in their wheelchairs to lobby Parliament. Do we have to see them lobbying Parliament month after month with all the stress that that puts on them in order to get this House, the House of Commons and the Government to act?”

There was cross-party support for the pension with the former chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Conservative peer Lord Cormack saying: “The time for procrastination and prevarication is over.”

Support also came from former adviser to David Trimble, Lord Bew who told the Lords: “Everything that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, was entirely correct, and I particularly support what he said about victims.”

Lord Duncan said that the Government expected advice on the pension from the Commissioner for Victims’ and Survivors to arrive “imminently” and that “I give the noble Lord my word that we will act on [it] as quickly as we can. These people have waited too long”.

Speaking on behalf of the WAVE Injured Group we really appreciate the support of Lord Hain, Lord Cormack and many others both in the Lords and the House of Commons.

And we hear what Lord Duncan has said and that is very encouraging.

But at the same time we can all see the disgraceful way victims of historical institutional Abuse are being treated by the Secretary of State.

We met Lord Duncan in March and it was a very good meeting.

We don’t doubt his sincerity and that he does want to move this on.

But shortly afterwards we met the SoS and the message coming from Karen Bradley was pretty brutal.

As we’ve said before we have moved on with our lives as best we can but we won’t be moved aside.

Lord Duncan speaks for the Government.

We’ll hold him to his word.

Paul Gallagher is part of the WAVE Trauma Centre’s Injured Group. He was shot by loyalists in his home in west Belfast aged 21 in 1994 and left severely wounded, but survived