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 Doug Beattie Doug Beattie UUP 10:30 am, 26th May 2020

I apologise for missing the start of this Matter of the Day and for missing most of the contributions, which I am in no doubt were extremely worthwhile.

This has been a bad week for victims: it has been a bad week for the victims' payments scheme, and it has been a bad week for the victims who are involved in the historical institutional abuse data breach.

Victims are being victimised all over again.

There are lots of arguments about who should and should not get this pension. I have a view on that and will give it a minute, but the big issue for me is that nobody took any action to get it set up. The lead Department was supposed to be nominated on 24 February: it was not. The board to deliver it was supposed to be set up: it was not. Nobody was telling victims that it was not on track. We asked the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), the Executive Office and the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS), and nobody knew where it stood. It was not until about nine days before it was supposed to go live that somebody came out and said that it was not happening. That caused huge distress in the victims community, massive distress. We still do not have a lead Department and still do not have a date for when it will be set up. That is truly disgraceful. We knew that this was coming down the line.

We can have arguments here, and we will have arguments. I absolutely see where people will have a different point of view to mine on who and who should not get it. I can never stand up and say that a perpetrator is entitled to the pension. I am sure that people will understand why I am willing to say that, why I have to say that, why I will always say that: innocent victims always have to come first. I accept that other people will have different views. Let them have different views. Let them put their case across. My view will not change.

The issue about money is not a side issue, but it is not the main issue. The Executive Office did nothing in regard to this, absolutely nothing. It is shameful. They need to take the blame for this. The issue of money is so unedifying. This is a UK-wide scheme. Innocent victims in Birmingham, Manchester, London and Warrington are entitled to the payment in exactly the same way as people in Londonderry, Belfast or Armagh are entitled to it. The UK Government have to put some money in, but we also have a responsibility here in our Executive. There has to be a conversation between our Finance Minister and the Treasury. We have to pay our way; we have to put our share in. That is what is not happening. There is no conversation, and that is a disgrace.