Leading article

Pension for severely injured victims is a move in the right direction

It is a sad reflection of our divided society that even the definition of a victim has proved deeply contentious, leading to protracted political wrangling.

While this has been going on, those who have suffered most grievously during the decades of conflict have had hopes raised then dashed that a modest pension might be provided to assist them in their everyday lives.

These are people who by any definition of the word are victims. Ordinary citizens who were caught up in appalling acts of violence.

Some of them have been cruelly maimed, their lives changed forever, their future plans and dreams shattered, leaving them to cope with the reality of disability, constant pain and enduring trauma.

It is not just the injured who have been impacted by an explosion or gunshot. Their families have also had to live with the consequences of a dreadful deed carried out maybe decades ago, in some cases.

Few could argue that the innocent victims deserve additional help, to provide practical support and ease their financial burden, particularly in their later years.

The dispute that has held up progress on a pension for victims has centred on the possibility that a perpetrator of violence would also qualify for payment.

There is, of course, no moral equivalence between an innocent person caught up in an attack and a paramilitary who plants a bomb or fires a gun.

However, it is regrettable that this sticking point has impeded the introduction of a pension for those who have already suffered for many years and waited long enough for additional help.

Now the British government has moved to progress this matter, with the Northern Ireland Office publishing new regulations last Friday.

The scheme will be open to people injured between 1966 and 2010 but those hurt in an incident in which they were convicted of playing a part will not be eligible.

Applications are expected to open by the end of May with payments backdated until 2014 when the Stormont House Agreement first proposed a pension for the injured.

It is right that victims who have waited long enough are not penalised for delays that are not of their making.

The details of this legislation will have to be carefully considered and it may raise issues of wider concern.

But the fact that severely injured victims of the Troubles are a step closer to a pension will be viewed in positve terms.

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Leading article