People dying while Government considers NI victims pension, says commissioner

People are dying every month while the Government considers paying pensions to those gravely injured during the Northern Ireland conflict, the Victims Commissioner has said.

Amputees and the paralysed are among hundreds of the most badly hurt still awaiting proper official compensation.

Decades ago the bereaved received an £80 cheque to cover the cost of a funeral.

Compensation for the wounded was similarly inadequate, campaigners believe.

Commissioner Judith Thompson (pictured) said: “We have advocated very hard with the Secretary of State to say here is something which you must pick up and deal with as an urgent humanitarian issue.

“You cannot deal with all other legacy issues at Westminster and leave this one parked.

“It would be obscene to address all those important issues about historical investigations and still not be able to finish looking after the most badly injured people.”

A pension is not part of measures to investigate many unresolved killings which are being established by the Government.

Late last year Ms Thompson’s office submitted the first phase of advice surrounding the cost of the allowance for hundreds of people left with life-changing injuries like loss of limbs.

The second phase of work on the psychological impact of decades of violence is due within weeks from the commission.

The Government said it would be “premature” to set out its next steps before seeing the commission’s document.

Ms Thompson wants officials to begin working on new laws while her advice is finalised on those suffering from conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder from witnessing violence.

She said: “Every month is a few people who will die and never get it.”

Progress stalled following political opposition to the inclusion of around 10 former terrorists or combatants among those eligible.

With Westminster now taking key decisions in the absence of the powersharing Executive at Stormont, Ms Thompson said it was time for action.

She said: “These people cannot sit and wait for however long it is while we try to get an Assembly back.”

Disabled former police officers are among those who have called for progress, despite their discomfort with former gunmen injured during attacks potentially benefiting.

The commissioner added: “We should do it because people are dying.”

She said a lot of the details would follow publication of the initial legislation, and added that while the legislation would enable core principles, implementation including levels of payment would follow.

The delay also affects carers of the injured, who may inherit their pension if it is granted.

Ms Thompson said: “Our pension advice (on psychological cases) will be completed by the end of March and our strong message is that this cannot sit and wait.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has requested advice on a victims’ pension from the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland, covering both physical and psychological injury.

“We have received some initial advice, which we are considering.

“It would be premature to set out next steps in advance of receiving further advice expected at the end of this month.

“We look forward to receiving this and to continuing to work with the Victims Commissioner on the way forward.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Liam McBurney / PA Wire.