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Troubles pensions delay unlawful, rules High Court

The Executive Office is stymieing payouts to pressurise the government into funding them, says judge.

Image copyright Liam McBurney/PA Image caption The ruling came in legal challenges by two victims – including Jennifer McNern, pictured – to the continued impasse around introducing the scheme with an estimated cost of £100m

The NI Executive Office is acting unlawfully in delaying the introduction of a compensation scheme for injured Troubles victims, a judge has ruled.

Mr Justice McAlinden was ruling on a legal challenge to the delay brought to the High Court in Belfast.

The victims’ payments were approved by Westminster in January.

They would give regular payments to people seriously injured, but have been long delayed by arguments over the definition of a Troubles victim.

The judge said the Executive Office was deliberately stymieing the commencement of payouts in order to pressurise the government into funding it and, in Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill’s case, getting the eligibility criteria changed.

Image copyright PA Media Image caption Michelle O’Neill says she will now nominate a Stormont department to progress a compensation scheme for injured Troubles victims

Ms O’Neill had declined to progress the scheme by refusing to allow the Executive Office – which she runs jointly with DUP First Minister Arlene Foster – to nominate a department to administer the pension payments.

Sinn Féin has said the criteria for those who are eligible to apply potentially discriminates against some republicans with convictions from the Troubles.

Following Friday’s court ruling, Ms O’Neill said: “As joint head of government I remain committed to delivering a scheme, which is based on equality and open to everyone who was seriously physically and psychologically injured during the conflict.

“In light of the court ruling, therefore, I am left with no alternative other than to designate a department.

“However, that designation will require the Executive to work together to secure the additional funds from Westminster for the cost of the scheme and get further clarity on eligibility and applications.”

First Minister Arlene Foster said it was a “welcome judgement”.

Writing on social media, she added: “Now time for Sinn Féin to prioritise innocent victims rather than bombers.”

The ruling came after legal challenges by two victims to the continued impasse around introducing the scheme with an estimated cost of £100m.

Jennifer McNern lost both legs in an IRA bomb attack on the Abercorn Restaurant in Belfast city centre in March 1972.

Proceedings were also brought by Brian Turley, one of the so-called Hooded Men detained and subjected to special interrogation methods by the British military in the early 1970s.

Image caption The Troubles claimed more than 3,500 lives

Even though legislation was passed for the pension scheme which should have opened for applications in May, it remains in limbo due to a dispute over eligibility for…

BBC News

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