It was Peter Hain’s government, and the neutral-on-terrorism definition of a victim, that sowed seeds of pension row

News Letter editorialNews Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
Peter Hain has some nerve to say that the secretary of state should be “thoroughly ashamed” of himself for delay in the Troubles pension for victims.

Lord Hain, a predecessor of Brandon Lewis, even cited a victim of the IRA in his criticisms.

Mr Lewis is not blameless in the scandal, almost encouraging terrorists to apply for pensions, saying they are eligible to apply to an adjudicatory panel. But Mr Lewis is far less culpable in it all than Lord Hain and his then boss Tony Blair.

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That government’s appeasement of the IRA began when Labour took office, weeks before the June 1997 murder of the RUC men David Johnston and John Graham in Lurgan. By the end of the summer Sinn Fein were invited into negotiations.

The IRA had not under John Major being getting the progress it wanted towards talks after its 1994 ceasefire and so hit London where it hurts — in the pocket, blowing up Canary Wharf in 1996 (murdering two bystanders in the blast).

Blair never specifically penalised the IRA for its conduct, from spying at Stormont to breaking into Castlereagh to Colombia to the Northern Bank heist to taking seven years after 1998 to decommission. When Hain was secretary of state, the neutral-on-terror definition of a victim was codified in 2006.

Also that year, Blair threatened unionists with near joint authority if they did not do a deal with Sinn Fein. We have been living with UK appeasement ever since, as Owen Polley writes brilliantly opposite, including Blair’s secret On The Run Scheme (later Tory ministers kept up the appeasing).

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As Ulster Human Rights Watch have been saying in their push with this paper for the pension, we need clarity (from the NIO, but also DUP) that there will be no deal to fudge pension guidelines and nor will the panel be encouraged to approve terrorist applicants. We also need London to say how the IRA’s bloody legacy will at last get scrutiny, not a vague retreat from a Stormont House deal that will not deliver that.

The Bobby Storey funeral has heavily underscored what most people already knew about the appeasement of terror.

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Alistair Bushe