“Anyone who planted a bomb, shot and attacked security services or members of the public cannot be a victim…”

I’m publishing this whole because it puts the controversy over troubles pensions into perspective. South Belfast UPRG (and the UDA in that area), makes clear that former Loyalist terrorists will not be applying for the money.

They seem to have outmaneuvered Sinn Féin leaving them the only party arguing in favour of pensions for old terrorists, as of right.

The so-called “Troubles” claimed more than 3,500 lives and the Northern Ireland Office has estimated that another 40,000 people were injured.No one can underestimate the emotional and physical trauma that was inflicted on completely innocent citizens during this time.

It is a matter of public record that the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) has stated that; ”In all sincerity, we offer to the loved ones of all innocent victims over the past twenty-five years, abject and true remorse. No words of ours will compensate for the intolerable suffering they have undergone during the conflict”. With that said we will comment on the pension scheme in the belief that we will not be nor would we ever be an impediment to securing pensions to victims.

The purpose of the scheme is to ‘acknowledge the harm suffered by those injured in the Troubles, and promote reconciliation between people in connection with Northern Ireland’s troubled past’ (Regulation 5(6)). The Board will be guided by principles on the need to be responsive to and prioritise victims’ needs, to be transparent and communicate effectively, the Scheme to be simple to navigate, applications to be determined without delay, and for personal data to be handled sensitively (Reg. 4).

Individuals will have to demonstrate that their injury is a result of being present at a Troubles-related incident (determined by the Board), present in the immediate aftermath of a Troubles-related incident in which a loved one died or suffered an injury, responding, in the course of employment to a Troubles-related incident, in which the person reasonably believed a loved one had died or suffered significant injury (Reg. 7). A loved one includes those married, in civil partnership or cohabitating for over two years. These contributing factors to obtaining a pension are surely sensible and can be agreed by all.

The most explicit exclusion is for those with relevant convictions that were as a result of ‘conduct which caused, wholly or in part’ with the incident they were seriously injured in. A relevant conviction are those which have been spent or unspent and excluded under the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, i.e. longer than thirty months or life sentences.

While in the first instance this will exclude those convicted for being involved in instances that they were injured in, it also has a wider scope for the Board to exclude those with any relevant conviction (not related to the injury) if it would be inappropriate to award them the victims’ payment (Reg. 6).

A review panel within the Board can re-examine a decision to exclude an applicant with a relevant conviction thus, in theory, anyone can apply and present evidence to the board (at appeal) that they believe counteracts against a refusal to grant them a suitable award. Whilst we would prefer that those who inflicted harm or suffering to innocent victims refrain from applying for a pension on the scheme the regulations do allow for such applications.

From a Loyalist perspective, we do not envisage many (or for that matter any) applications from those who were adjudged (in law) to have committed crimes that would exclude them from applying. The current furore around the scheme is one created by Sinn Fein who would seek to conflate and confuse people around the notion of what constitutes a ‘victim’. We are very clear about this.

Anyone who planted a bomb, shot and attacked security services or members of the public and who (in that process of committing those acts) were injured cannot claim to be a victim. This is clear in a moral sense and we would submit it to be clear in a legal sense. All delays in delivering pensions to victims is a further insult to them and adds to their suffering.

Those living with the consequences of serious injury do so with a constant reminder of those dark days in our history. Many of their injuries are physical but a significant number of survivors also continue to suffer from deep psychological trauma. It is, therefore, not surprising that many struggle with normal daily routine tasks, and are struggling to cope financially.

We have great empathy and understanding of the emotional impact and debilitating effect that those who suffered are experiencing to this very day. To further delay the pension scheme in an attempt by Sinn Fein to rewrite history and in some way justify the IRA murder campaign is outrageous and deeply offensive.

In conclusion, we support a pension scheme for victims and accept that the definitions and application criteria for the scheme is fair and proportionate. We would vigorously encourage all political parties to reach rapid agreement and move this scheme forward.

We would also urge the United Kingdom government to roll out this scheme without delay and reject the constant delaying tactics of Sinn Fein, who remain a barrier to a resolution of this matter.

As if to underline the point I made yesterday about Sinn Féin’s lack of real politics, its objections flow from its core ideological commitments to the idea that all IRA violence was never criminal more than any actual material concern.

And, of course, as Newton pointed out a few weeks ago in the Irish News, “compensation is always blocked or reduced on culpability for an injury, and having a serious conviction unrelated to your injury is another general disqualification”.

For once, loyalism has refused to come in under Sinn Féin’s special pleading for itself and left the old Provisional narrative exposed, now with probably nowhere else left to go but to go quietly.