Victims of contaminated blood scandal welcome increased financial support
VICTIMS of the contaminated blood scandal in Northern Ireland have welcomed an increase in compensation which will bring them into line with England.
Health minister Robin Swann confirmed that the annual payments would now range from £18,745 to just under £45,000.
Financial support to English victims was boosted last year but the north lagged behind.
A UK-wide public inquiry into the scandal, which left at least 2,400 people dead, heard harrowing evidence from those affected last year.
Infected blood - taken from individuals including prisoners and drug addicts - was used in the NHS during the late 1970s and 1980s to treat patients.
It is estimated that more than 400 people became infected in the north.
It is not known how many deaths it caused, as many died from secondary illnesses.
Among those who took the stand for the Belfast inquiry hearings last year was Glengormley man Nigel Hamilton, from Haemophilia NI, who discovered he had contracted hepatitis C after an eye operation when he was a teenager.
He subsequently had a liver transplant after developing cancer.
Mr Hamilton's twin brother, Simon, also became infected with contaminated blood in 1986 in a separate incident but did not discover he had Hepatitis C until the mid-90s.
Nigel Hamilton said before the weekend he was entitled to just over £18,000 a year, but that has now gone up to over £28,500.
He told the BBC the money would give people the opportunity "to live our lives with a certain degree of financial security".
"We're encouraged by what has happened, it's taken a little bit longer than we would have liked, but we respect that it is there and we respect that the minister is a man of his word," he said.
"The logjam has moved and it's moved in the right direction.
"It's about the money, because we want what we're told we're worth, but it's also about the principle."