Troubles Victims: Pension

Part of Matter of the Day – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:30 am on 26th May 2020.

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Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice 10:30 am, 26th May 2020

I am grateful, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to raise this issue. In the week when the leader of Sinn Féin told the innocent victims of the IRA that the actions of the organisation that made them victims were justified, all victims received the kick in the teeth that the pension that they had been long promised was not going to be delivered as promised. That is an appalling failure of Government. To think that those who lost the most in the horrendous Troubles are simply to be cast aside and told that what they were promised by Government is not now at this point to be delivered is truly shocking. The reason for that is equally shocking. It is that it appears, we are told, that there is not agreement on the funding of that vital pension. I simply have this observation: why was the leverage of the opportunity of the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) negotiations squandered? It was an opportunity to put the issue to bed. Why was the assurance not obtained that there would be funding, wherever it came from? That was the time to deliver. The victims were let down in those negotiations. Now, we are in the woeful situation that if the Executive are to negotiate with the Exchequer on the funding of the pension, the man who will go to negotiate — the Finance Minister — is a past member of the very organisation that made so many of the victims. A man who cannot even do his duty by the Quinn family will now, it seems, be asked to take forward proceedings with the Exchequer. What hope is there?

I have to ask the First Minister, Mrs Foster, what is the point in being First Minister if you cannot even deliver in this most demanding of situations? If you cannot deliver for the innocent victims of terrorism, what is the point in being First Minister? We are told that it is about finance. I wonder? I suspect that there is a party in the Executive dragging its feet on the issue, because it does not accept that the pension should be only for those who were innocent and who did not cause their own harm. Is that the real reason why there has been delay and failure to take this forward and failure to designate a Department? I suspect that it is. However, one thing is clear: the innocent victims — just as they have been in the definition of "victim" — have been let down again. It is an appalling indictment of Government.