Man paralysed during troubles ‘disappointed’ in Karen Bradley’s performance

A man paralysed in a shooting during The Troubles has said he is “disappointed” in Karen Bradley’s performance as he continues to campaign for a special pension.

Peter Heathwood, 65, was shot in a case of mistaken identity at his home in north Belfast in 1979 when he was 26.

His father, Herbert Heathwood, died of a heart attack at the scene when he thought his son was dead.

Mr Heathwood is among people severely injured during the Northern Ireland conflict campaigning for a special pension to help with “living independently and with a bit of dignity”.

Mr Heathwood, who is widowed and lives alone in Killough, Co Down, told the Press Association: “I find it difficult, because I live on benefits, to get things done like get the grass cut or if the house needs (to be) painted, to finance that out of benefits.”

He said the pension would help prevent him having to move to a nursing home and so will save the state money in the long term.

“I would just be worried… my fear in life would be I’m going to end up in a nursing home. I would hate that.

“That would completely just kill me off, stifle me. I just couldn’t face that.

“I would be frightened of that and this is why I think this pension would stop that because I would have that little bit extra.”

Mr Heathwood said the pension would cost the state between £3.5 million and £5 million per year.

“And that would be a benefit that would decrease as we die off. And coming out of a Westminster budget of £240 billion, it’s nothing,” he said.

Asked about Secretary of State Ms Bradley, Mr Heathwood said: “She seems to be here to kick the can down the road and not offend the DUP and Sinn Fein.

“I would love her to prove me wrong but at the minute I would be disappointed with her performance so far.”

Another victim, Jennifer McNern, 68, who lost both legs in the Abercorn restaurant bombing in 1972, said living on benefits is “just so constrictive on your life”.

She said it would be a “tragedy” if the pensions were not sorted, adding: “It’s down now to our Secretary of State to move this forward and to move it forward immediately.”

Ms McNern said they have to have faith in Ms Bradley, adding that she would like the Secretary of State to set a time limit.

“It can’t go on indefinitely,” she said, adding: “It’s just not right.”

Margaret Yeaman, 74, who lost her sight in a bomb blast at an estate agents in Banbridge when she was 38, said the pension would be to cover “basics”.

She added: “We’re not getting any younger. And it’s now we need it. We don’t need it when we’re dead.”

Campaigners brought together by the Wave Trauma Centre support group have buried four members since their campaign started.

Most are in their late sixties, with some in their seventies and eighties.

Earlier, Paul Gallagher, who was left in a wheelchair 25 years ago after being shot, reiterated a call from Victims’ Commissioner Judith Thompson for the Government to urgently progress her proposals for a pension for the physically injured.

Her recommendations on the psychologically harmed are being finalised.

Progress at Stormont on a pension stalled over the inclusion of a small number of perpetrators of violence who suffered injuries among those eligible.

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