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East Antrim DUP MLA and Junior Minister Gordon Lyons held a virtual meeting with the representatives of innocent victims this morning.

Mr Lyons emphasised that the law makes clear there will be a permanent disablement pension for innocent victims and the structures are now being put in place.

Mr Lyons said,

“The pension for innocent victims should have been in place years ago but due to Sinn Fein dragging their feet it was delayed. We have been pressing this case for more than a decade for those people who were severely injured as a result of terrorism and therefore unable to work and contribute to a personal pension.

In the last Parliament, we convinced the Government to legislate for the pension in a way which ruled out terrorists being eligible for the payment. As a result, Sinn Fein shamelessly refused to progress the pension when devolution was restored last January. Eventually Sinn Fein had to be forced by the courts to press ahead with the pension.

The foot-dragging by Michelle O’Neill, just because the pension is for innocent victims rather than PIRA victim makers, was downright offensive.

This has been a long journey. The payment computer systems are now being developed and there is a legal duty on the Northern Ireland Executive to make the payments.

The final piece of the jigsaw is HM Government committing to fund this pension.

Considering many of those eligible for the pension will be from England, Scotland and Wales, it would be incredible for the Government to expect the Northern Ireland Executive to fund this from their purse. I have written to the Secretary of State making the case and urging him to ensure the Government steps up and meets the needs of victims.”