Alex Kane is on fire in the Irish News today on the subject of payments to victims that was promised back in December 2014, under the Stormont House Agreement. He quotes from a letter he received after making an appearance on GMU at the time.
“I don’t expect anything to come from this. We aren’t front and centre. We are sidelined and forgotten. Most of us will die before the parties have resolved it and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly what they want.”
Hard not to see what he means. Six years later, and still nothing. Now, oddly enough the First Minister said on Good Morning Ulster she is ready to designate the Justice department but needs the deputy First Minister to do the same.
So what’s the problem? Well, there has been some dispute over money, but the British government has said that that should not hold up making practical arrangements in order to make the payments when the quantum is agreed.
Julian O’Neill reports that the scheme was due to open on 29 May.
Sinn Féin MLA (and convicted bomber) Gerry Kelly said, “it is the British government who have brought in these regulations, without consultation, to be discriminatory, and all they are interested in is to protect one section of victims.”
The section of victims Gerry is talking about is the proposition that anyone a sentence more than two and a half years. Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson explains:
“There is a requirement that anyone who has been sentenced – not served but sentenced – to more than two and half years in prison, go before a judge-led panel which will make a decision on whether it’s appropriate for them to get this payment or not.”
That’s a compromise on the original proposal. It does not stop such folks from getting the pension, but it does mean that perpetrators who also consider themselves to be victims have to explain why they should get the money first.
Turns out that when you read Lost Lives, what Gerry refers to as “one section” of victims turns out to be a very large subset of those actually killed, with just 395 republican and just 167 loyalist paramilitaries killed in the troubles.
The vast majority of the rest are the “sidelined and forgotten”. Still being sidelined, but hopefully no longer being forgotten by the rest of the Executive parties?
Update: The Irish News reports: Sinn Féin isolated over Troubles pensions as other parties say `victims have waited long enough’.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty