Opening date for Troubles victims’ pension is confirmed
The First Minister and deputy First Minister have welcomed the confirmation of the opening date for Troubles pension scheme as June 30.
The Ministers were speaking following the announcement by the President of the Victims’ Payments Board, Mr Justice McAlinden, of his intention to open the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payments Scheme for applications from that date.
The First Minister Arlene Foster said: “It is encouraging that a date has now been set for the opening of the scheme. This is something that has been long-awaited by victims and survivors and all of us who support them.
“There is undoubtedly hard work ahead but we take heart from the progress made with both administrative arrangements and engagement as highlighted by Mr Justice McAlinden, President of the Victims’ Payments Board.
“We urge the Board to move with the greatest possible speed to provide both the recognition and payments that are rightfully owed.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I welcome the confirmation of an opening date for the scheme, which is a significant step forward for victims and survivors.
“There are countless people across our society who continue to live with the lasting impacts of the conflict. It is important that their pain and suffering is acknowledged; and that they receive the payments to which they are entitled.
“I hope today’s announcement will bring some comfort to those who are eligible for this support and I very much hope we see payments being made as quickly as possible when the scheme becomes operational.”
The Ministers reemphasised that payments will be made to successful applicants as soon as they fall due and restated their firm commitment to progressing financial discussions with the Westminster Government regarding their funding responsibilities for the scheme.
Stormont’s Executive Office has pledged to cover the costs of the pension, despite arguing that Westminster should pay as it passed the initial legislation.
The estimated cost could be up to £1.2bn.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said his department would cover the costs but warned it could have consequences for other departments’ budgets.
Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “I have said from the outset, when I agreed that my department could be designated to administer the scheme, that I shared the frustration of those who have been waiting for delivery of this important scheme and that we would do everything in our power to move things forward.
“Much progress has been made since then and I am grateful to the President and members of the Victims’ Payments Board for their commitment to make the scheme operational.
“Victims and survivors of the Troubles have waited a long time for this scheme and today’s announcement is an important milestone on what has been a long and painful journey for many.”
Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chairman Simon Hoare said: “It’s a great relief to victims and survivors that we now have a date set for the opening of applications for the Troubles Pension. The NI Affairs Committee has been pushing for this. It remains a travesty and a failure of public service that it has taken this long to deliver.”
Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Linda Dillon has welcomed today’s announcement.
“Sinn Féin is fully committed to the delivery of the Victims Payment Scheme for all who suffered permanent physical and psychological injury as a result of the conflict,” she said.
“Victims have had to wait for too long for this scheme to open and the important recognition of their hurt and suffering that comes with it.”
The MLA said she has sought assurances that support will be put in place to help victims apply for the funding.
A Department of Justice spokesman saidThe Victims’ Payments Regulations 2020 set out the criteria for entitlement to a payment under the scheme. Further information and guidance on the application process will be available in due course. In the interim, those who wish to register an interest in the scheme can do so by emailing [email protected]
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