'Shameful stand-off' over compensation for victims

Credit: Press Eye

Northern Ireland’s victims commissioner says a row over funding has led to terror victims across the UK missing out on compensation payments.

Judith Thompson has written an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Executive calling for a resolution to the “shameful stand-off”.

She has also written to all MPs across the UK to stress that the impact of the dispute is not confined to victims from Northern Ireland.

Anyone living in the UK, and beyond, who was injured during the Troubles is potentially eligible to apply for the scheme.

The commissioner said the treatment of victims by the authorities was "cruel, callous and insulting".

After a long campaign for the support payments, which range from £2,000 to £10,000 a year depending on the severity of the injury, MPs passed legislation last year to establish the scheme.

It was supposed to open to applications on 29 May but its future has been thrown into doubt amid a wrangle between Stormont and the Government over who foots the £100 million-plus bill.

The Government has insisted it is a matter for the devolved administration to pay for out of its block grant.

But Stormont's leaders say the scheme was legislated for at Westminster so that is where the funding should come from.

Mrs Thompson said victims had been let down again.

"They are witnessing a failure to open the scheme and a disgraceful public debate between politicians in Northern Ireland and in Westminster over who should pay," she wrote.

"It is cruel, callous and insulting that this shameful stand-off played out in public is undoing the acknowledgement of pain, suffering and loss that the Victims Payment was to deliver.

"It has become the ultimate insult to those victims and survivors who campaigned for years to be acknowledged, respected and valued.

"It is not good enough."

The commissioner said the fact recipients could hail from anywhere in the UK meant it should not be the executive's sole responsibility to pay.

However, she also demanded that Stormont fulfil its responsibility to appoint a department to administer the scheme.

Mrs Thompson added: "Twenty two years after the Belfast Agreement was signed, we are still seeing lives devastated by legacy issues, pain passed down through families, and communities torn apart by mental health crises, substance misuse, domestic and sectarian violence.

"This law, passed in Westminster, will do something to make life better for those who suffered the most.

"It is our expectation that this legislation is implemented immediately."