Former Northern Ireland Secretary demands ministers resolve troubles pensions row

Northern Ireland

The payments have been delayed amid a stand-off between Belfast and London on who pays for the estimated £100m cost

Stormont and Westminster need to stop squabbling and have “an adult conversation” over who will pay for a pension scheme for those injured in the Troubles, a former Northern Ireland Secretary has said.

The payments have been delayed amid a stand-off between Belfast and London on who pays for the estimated £100m cost.

Victims are considering taking legal action over the delays to payments.

The Victims Payment Scheme had been due to open for applications on May 29. However, it has emerged the scheme will not be opening as scheduled and that structures set out in the regulations passed into law in January 2020 to administer the scheme have not been set up, although the First Minister has said a department “will be designated in the very near future”.

Lord Hain said that any further delay would be “completely unacceptable and a gratuitous betrayal of those who have suffered so much”.

It is absolutely incredible that severely injured people in the WAVE Injured Group who have campaigned for over 10 years for this legislation have to threaten action in the courts before the Executive Office move to fulfil their moral and legal obligations, he said. The requirement to pay these pensions to horrendously injured people is in statute.

Westminster and Belfast ministers cannot duck this or they will be guilty of criminal irresponsibility in flouting the law of the land they expect everyone else to obey, Lord Hain said. It is a dreadful example of the failure of the political will do what is right.

On the issue of who pays for the scheme, Lord Hain said: What is needed is for an adult conversation to take place between whichever department the Executive designates to take responsibility for the scheme and the Northern Ireland Office and ultimately the Treasury.

It’s not rocket science, he said. But you can’t have two sides shouting ‘we’re not paying’ at each other over the heads of severely physically and psychologically maimed victims and survivors.

Only the Executive office can say why months and months have been wasted while they sat on their hands but now that it has been indicated that a department will be designated they have to get on with it without further delay, he said.