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 Gerry Kelly Gerry Kelly Sinn Féin 10:30 am, 26th May 2020

I am sorry that I am late and apologies for not hearing the beginning of this. Sinn Féin's position has been for a very long time that there is a wide range of people — I agree with Paul Frew, and he is the only Member that I have heard, so forgive me for that — in the victims and survivors' community, right across the board, and they deserve this payment. I also agree with him that the pension will not compensate them for the suffering that they have gone through — not only the deaths and the injuries that were caused, and that were caused to their families and to their extended families into another generation — but it is some acknowledgement of what they deserve. It is an acknowledgement from society that there was a conflict and that people were badly injured and continue to suffer over a long period of time. It is well past the time that they got the pension.

The pension has been agreed. I disagree with where the British Government have brought it to, in the same way that I disagree that they have not moved the Stormont House Agreement forward, because we are dealing with the pension, but we are also dealing with the wide-ranging issue of the community of victims and survivors who have suffered so much over that long period of time. To try to define it — or redefine it, as they are, of course, trying to redefine the whole issue around the structures around legacy — is the British Government's attempt to shy away from it. They are trying to be bloody-minded about where they are going with the issue, but there is a legal definition of a victim. It has been in law since 2006, and the Stormont House Agreement has been in place since 2014. My party, and I presume every other party here, has been trying to get the structures set up and to get the pension for victims moved along from the beginning.

The issue — Paul Frew pointed towards Sinn Féin — is around the British Government trying to redefine what a victim is and deciding who should and should not be one. There has been an issue around a small number of people, and I accept that there is a deep difference of opinion between unionists and republicans, but the Government have tried to spread that out to involve hundreds of people who may not be eligible for this pension. On the issue of money, which is the issue that has been in the headlines most, it is Westminster legislation: the Assembly was not set up at the time. There is an issue around the British Government and the fact — it has been said by the First Minister and the deputy First Minister — that the Executive cannot afford it. I notice that the amount is £100 million. I hesitate to think that £100 million will cover this.