Troubles Victims: Pension

Part of Matter of the Day – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:45 am on 26th May 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mike Nesbitt Mike Nesbitt UUP 10:45 am, 26th May 2020

I will speak partly informed by my experience as one of the commissioners for victims and survivors when that commission was set up in early 2007. There were four of us, and we had, at times, significantly different views on what we should do for the victims and survivors of our conflict. However, a common theme was listening to victims and survivors, and one of their common themes was that, on the day on which they or their loved ones were injured, there was an expectation that the state and the services of the state would form wagons in a circle around them and give them support. Did they need medical help? We had a health service for them. Did they need their children transported to school? We could organise that. Did they need short-term issues with cash flow addressed? We could do that. The common experience was that they were totally ignored. They were left to fend for themselves. As the years became decades and the decades passed, the common experience was a feeling that we wanted them simply to grow old, fade away and die. I think that all in the Chamber can agree that that is not what we want.

I think of someone like Jennifer McNern, who, one day in 1972, went for a drink in a Belfast city centre bar called the Abercorn and has been in a wheelchair ever since, denied, like thousands of victims and survivors, the opportunity to work for a living and save for a pension. The argument for providing that money is compelling, and I thought that we had agreed to do so. Is it a question, really, of who funds the scheme? Is it a matter of whether Treasury provides £100 million above and beyond the block grant or we take it from the Executive's Budget? Or is it about something else? Is it about who qualifies for the pension? I accept that we have a definition in the 2006 Order, but we have done plenty for people who were injured by their own hand. If somebody hurt themselves with their own gun or bomb and presented at A&E at the Royal Victoria Hospital, the NHS did not ask how they got injured and, if it was by their own hand, say, "Away you go". We have a compassionate, caring state and services, but this goes beyond that. This is about saying to people like Jennifer McNern, "We owe you", and we must find a way to do it.