Leading article

Wrangle over victims' pension must be resolved quickly

It is frankly unacceptable that those who have suffered so grievously during the Troubles are facing further delay to the implementation of a pension scheme.

Finding an agreed mechanism to provide financial assistance to victims and survivors has been a protracted and fraught process.

Many of those who were seriously injured in bomb or gun attacks or are dealing with psychological trauma as a result of their experiences during the years of conflict, are getting older and they deserve and need additional support.

This issue took a huge step forward earlier this year when then secretary of state Julian Smith signed into law a victims payment scheme. Applications for the new scheme were expected to open by the end of this month.

However, earlier this week it emerged that the process had stalled, apparently over a wrangle between Westminster and Stormont over who should fund the payments.

Secretary of state Brandon Lewis says the cost, estimated to be £100 million, is the responsibility of the executive.

Both Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill yesterday expressed a commitment to the scheme, but the deputy first minister said the onus was on the British government ''in terms of the funding package that's required in order to get this payment put into place."

It is clear that this wrangle has come as a devastating blow to victims, some of whom have spoken of their anger and frustration at the stand off.

Victims' Commissioner Judith Thompson has accused the authorities of adding insult to the injury sustained by thousands of survivors, saying severely injured victims may be forced to go to court to secure the pension they have campaigned for .

She also expressed concern that some victims would die before the scheme is implemented, describing their treatment as 'incredibly cruel.'

It is appalling that those who believed this pension was finally going to become a reality are now witnessing it slipping further away.

The victims of this conflict have already lost so much, it is intolerable that they should be denied what they are entitled to by law because of an unseemly dispute.

They also should not have to go to court to force the government to do what is right.

This is an issue that must be resolved as a matter of urgency.

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Leading article