Leading article

Troubles pension undermine by harsh ruling

The saga over the Victims' Payment Scheme has taken many twists and turns, with serious disagreements regularly surfacing along the way.

Implementing what has often been referred to as the Troubles pension was always going to be a complex task for the British government, particularly in the face of an almost total lack of consensus among the main Stormont parties.

However, the one point that is abundantly clear is that many people who either suffered serious injuries or lost loved ones in the course of the violence of the last five decades are in urgent need of financial assistance.

While the Northern Ireland Office attempted to move matters forward on Friday by publishing guidance about the way in which an independent body overseeing the initiative will assess eligibility, concerns were voiced almost immediately from a number of sources.

As we report today, it has emerged that bereaved victims will not be entitled to apply for the payment, even if they have medical proof of psychological injury, unless they actually witnessed the murder of a close relative.

This will be widely regarded as a very harsh ruling, which will undoubtedly add to the distress of individuals who have already come through exceptionally traumatic experiences.

If a person from any background has endured the death of a spouse or a parent, whether it was caused by republicans, loyalists or the forces of the state, they will have had to deal with a range of destabilising consequences whether or not they were in close proximity to the fatal bombing or shooting.

We set out the personal story of Mary Trainor today, although many similar testimonies could be offered on behalf of grieving relatives from all sections of society.

Her husband was shot dead by loyalists in a sectarian attack in 1973 when she was only 21, leaving her as a widow who had to cope with the mental anguish of the murder and the physical pressures of bringing up two young children.

No one was ever convicted of the killing, and, because she was not present at the scene, she has now suffered the further ordeal of discovering that she does not qualify for the pension scheme.

Mary Trainor, like hundreds of others, has been treated with huge injustice, and it is essential that the authorities should review their decisions on this key issue.

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