Soldiers injured in Northern Ireland during the Troubles should be awarded a special pension, a decorated former Army captain has said.
Payments of up to £1,500 a month have been mooted for the most seriously hurt as part of efforts to support victims of the Troubles, and soldier turned Ulster Unionist politician Doug Beattie said members of the military should not be left out.
Some ex-service personnel have been left without legs following IRA bombings, and many with serious injuries are already receiving Ministry of Defence pensions.
Mr Beattie said: “The Ulster Unionist Party is supportive of the principle of a pension for innocent victims who were severely injured, either mentally or physically.
“To gain our support this must include the very large number of people who served here as members of the UK armed forces and who now reside in Great Britain.
“Furthermore, in the interests of equality, if legislation is passed here in Northern Ireland, we will obviously need parallel legislation in Westminster to cover those affected by atrocities perpetrated in Great Britain.”
Mr Beattie is an MLA after years of service with the Royal Irish Regiment and tours of Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Afghanistan. He served in Co Fermanagh in the 1990s in the latter years of the conflict.
He added: “If I was a British soldier living in London and I had lost a couple of legs, and I saw people being compensated and I was not, then I would take that to court.”
A pension for victims was mentioned in the Stormont House Agreement between the British and Irish governments and local politicians in 2014, aimed at resolving issues left over from the peace process.
The WAVE Trauma Centre, Northern Ireland’s largest victims’ group, has advocated the payment.
The number eligible up to this point has been put at less than 500, according to an expert briefing to the Assembly.
WAVE spokesman Alan McBride said the proposed payout was only for the most severely physically injured, and in cases where soldiers were affected he would have expected them to already be covered by Army pensions, but he backed the inclusion of those left without support.
“I would find it reprehensible that a serving British soldier could lose his legs and not get something from the Army. At the end of the day they were injured serving their Queen and country and I would hope they have been looked after.”