We now need a firm date for start of the Victim Pension
A letter from Axel Schmidt:
Ministers need to speed up pensions for innocent victims of terrorism following the court pledge by Stormont to pay for the delayed scheme.
The commitment by the Executive Office and Finance Minister appears to have brought this sorry chapter over funding to a close, pending further contribution from the UK government.
Now, we must get a firm date for the start of the scheme.
The Department of Justice will administer the scheme and we need to hear a clear timetable being given for implementation from the minister Naomi Long.
Ministers must move with speed to address all outstanding questions.
When will they invite applications to be made to the Victim’s Payments Board?
What evidence will be required of applicants?
What will the different stages of the process be?
How long will applications take to be considered?
And finally, when will payments be made to victims?
We assume, perhaps incorrectly, that a lot of the ‘architecture’ of the scheme has been put in place while Belfast and London argued over who funded the scheme.
What is required now, after such an unnecessarily long, drawn-out and much-delayed process, is a demonstration of generosity and kindness.
The best way of doing that is to get the scheme up and running in weeks not months.
The last obstacle appears to have been removed, although the scheme is almost one year overdue because of political dispute and disagreement.
Ministers have definitely not covered themselves in glory, but they have a last chance to do the right thing and get pensions to people who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Axel Schmidt, Ulster Human Rights Watch, Advocacy Manager,
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