Writing in the News Letter, DUP Westminster Leader & Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said,
In 2014 the DUP published 'Key Commitments to Innocent Victims of Terrorism'. That document included support for a pension for severely physically injured victims. Over the six years that have passed since then progress has been made on this vital support for victims, but the final hurdle must still be overcome.
The definition of a victim remains gravely insulting to many innocent victims who find it morally indefensible that those who were injured through no fault of their own might be categorised alongside the terrorist who deliberately set out to injure and kill.
An attempt was made to introduce a pension for innocent victims through a Private Members Bill in the Assembly. That proposal built on work undertaken by victims themselves, including consideration by the Victims and Survivors Forum and the Wave Injured Group. However, it was not until last year that the Government at Westminster moved to legislate and the pension was finally secured.
Whilst not all victims will support eligibility criteria that exclude those injured by their own actions or those convicted of a serious terrorist offence, those measures have been supported over a long period of time by the clear majority of victims in Northern Ireland. When consulting on the Private Members Bill within the Assembly this view was very clearly articulated through a huge response to that process and it has been echoed in every consultation since that time.
Whilst the proposal for a victims pension was passed through Parliament, it is to be administered locally within Northern Ireland. The pension and its eligibility criteria are supported by a majority of parties, MLAs and Executive Ministers. The First Minister has signalled her support for the Department of Justice to administer the pension and that is also supported by the Justice Minister. However, Sinn Fein have refused to designate the Department of Justice.
Sinn Fein's stance is motivated once again by their desire to elevate republican terrorists above everyone else in society, including victims. A number of weeks ago, the law and regulations on funerals during the Covid-19 pandemic was disregarded for the funeral of Bobby Storey, and just this week a judge accused Michelle O'Neill of ignoring the rule of law by delaying the pension.
The huge frustration of victims throughout the many years of this process has only been matched by their patience. Unfortunately many have passed away whilst waiting for proper recognition, including within recent days.
It is yet another example of Sinn Fein standing isolated and obstructive to the needs of ordinary people. Their obstructive stance is not sustainable however. Michelle O'Neill, like any other Minister must act in accordance with the law and she must set aside the republican rule book for the rule of law.