Northern Ireland news

Executive Office given fortnight to pledge to fund Troubles pensions or face likelihood of court order

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan. Picture by Hugh Russell

STORMONT'S Executive Office has a fortnight to pledge to fund a Troubles pension scheme or face the likelihood of a court order, the north's most senior judge has said.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan indicated that he was "strongly minded" to impose the mandatory direction on April 12 unless the first and deputy first ministers' department gives an undertaking to cover compensation due over the next financial year.

The development in legal action by Brian Turley, one of the 'Hooded Men', follows reassurances from First Minister Arlene Foster in the assembly that eligible victims will be paid, whether the money comes from Westminster or Stormont.

Sitting in the Court of Appeal, Sir Declan said: "There is a statutory obligation on the Executive Office to pay the money.

"There is a First Minister who says that it will be paid, everybody recognises that the focus of this litigation is to provide comfort and security to those who have been victims and survivors of the most horrendous circumstances.

"It would require something quite radical to persuade us that the court should step back from making any effective order in circumstances where everybody is putting their hand up and saying I can't pay."

Earlier this year the court declared that the Executive Office is under a legal duty to fund the pensions for those badly injured during the Troubles.

The ruling followed a long-running dispute between Stormont and Westminster over who should foot the bill for a scheme costing up to £1.2bn, with the Executive Office saying it does not have the money.

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