An RUC officer who was seriously injured by the IRA hopes new benefit changes which help terrorists do not signal the imminent arrival of a full-blown pension for gunmen and bombers.
Sam Malcolmson from Katebridge was speaking after the UUP and TUV expressed shock that a DUP minister and Sinn Fein pushed changes through Stormont this week which it is claimed will put terrorists on an equal footing with their victims for a 12-month period.
DUP minister Peter Weir proposed the new legislation as part of the switch from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the new Personal Independent Payment (PIP).
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and TUV leader Jim Allister voted against the Welfare Supplementary Payment (Loss of Disability Living Allowance) Regulations, which was passed 54 to 13 by MLAs.
However Mr Malcolmson, a former RUC officer who lives with chronic pain as a result of an IRA gun attack, told the News Letter he fears that the controversial measure is a small taste of a full blown pension that will be made available for terrorists.
Now chairman of the Wounded Police Officers’ Association, he said: “It seems as if terrorists are being rewarded for violence now. Are we just a step away from giving them a pension for their dirty campaign?
“It seems all terrorists are going to be awarded benefits that some of our own members are unable to get.
“What next? Will they award a Troubles campaign medal [for terrorists]?
“I don’t begrudge anyone normal benefits – but to actually reward either IRA or UVF members for what they did...
“It seems that if innocent victims are awarded something there is a cattle market up at Stormont where the big two parties trade on what victims and terrorists will get – it can’t be right.”
Chris Donnelly was a civilian who was opening his boot at an RUC checkpoint 40 years ago in Cookstown when the IRA opened fire, hitting him in the legs.
At age 24 he lost his job and his ability to play sport, leaving him with serious physical and psychological injuries.
“I would not be very happy about it,” he said of the measures pushed through Stormont this week.
“But if it is going to benefit someone like me...I am 62. I am not as well off as I should have been.
“I have not worked for 20 years due to my injuries.
“It is sad that someone should be treated similarly to me who has committed terrorist crimes.
“The thing that bugs me is that a lot of people are going to block a Troubles pension because a terrorist would benefit – but my concern is that I will get nothing. It is the lesser of two evils.”
The DUP said the problem of equality of terrorists with victims in benefits stems from the statutory definition of a victim, which was a legacy of direct rule under the UUP.
The DUP says it is moving once again to attempt to change the statutory definition.