Northern Ireland news

Peter Hain says delays in Troubles pensions scheme 'completely unacceptable'

Peter Hain says the delays in the Troubles pensions scheme are 'completely unacceptable'

FORMER secretary of state Peter Hain says the delays in the Troubles related pension scheme are "completely unacceptable", just days after it emerged that the Executive has not yet appointed a department to operate it.

Lord Hain said it was "a gratuitous betrayal of those who have suffered so much" if they had to wait any longer on the scheme being set up.

His comments come just days after Troubles victims said they would begin legal action over the Executive's failure to start the scheme.

Last week First Minister Arlene Foster said an Executive department to administer the scheme would be designated "in the very near future". She has also said it was unaffordable without extra Treasury funding.

But victims' campaigner Alan McBride said they were serving the Executive with notice to put the correct structures in place or face the "embarrassing situation" of court action.

It was Lord Hain's amendment to the Executive Formation Bill in the House of Lords which paved the way for the legislation enacted in January.

The legislation requires the Executive Office to have the scheme ready to accept and process applications for payments by Friday.

"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," said Lord Hain.

"It is a dreadful example of the failure of the political will do what is right."

Lord Hain also said an "adult conversation" was needed to establish "whichever department the Executive designates to take responsibility for the scheme and the Northern Ireland Office and ultimately the Treasury".

"There has to be a real sense of urgency to get everything in place," he said.

"When the scheme was passed into law the time-frame for getting it up and running was intentionally challenging. The people this scheme is designed to help do not have time on their side."

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