Posted on March 28, 2019
James Nesbitt was speaking to MPs and peers in Westminster where the WAVE Injured Group had brought their photographic exhibition, ‘Injured On That Day’.
“When people say ‘thank God the Troubles are over and we can all get on with our lives’, I can understand that. But for those who came through those desperate times relatively unscathed and those for whom they are not even a distant memory, there needs to be a reminder that for many men and women what happened to them is not consigned to the past but is in the here and now.” There are 500 or so people severely injured as a consequence of the Troubles. Campaigners are calling for recognition for the forgotten victims and practical support in the form of pensions for the severely injured.
Paul Gallagher was left in a wheelchair 25 years ago, when loyalist gunmen in Belfast shot him after they were unable to find his neighbour. He has been campaigning for a special pension for the most badly injured during the decades of violence and said the sums involved would not be lucrative.
He said often people had to survive much longer than expected on compensation awarded at the time: “This is about dignity and empathy – not charity.”
In one case, a colleague who was paralysed at the age of 17 was told she would not see her 33rd birthday due to her injury, Mr Gallagher said. She is now in her 60s. Mr Gallagher reiterated a call from Victims’ Commissioner Judith Thompson for the Government to urgently progress her proposals for a pension for the physically injured. Her recommendations on the psychologically harmed are being finalised.
Progress at Stormont on a pension stalled over the inclusion of a small number of perpetrators of violence who suffered injuries among those eligible.
Mr Gallagher said it was up to Westminster to act in the absence of devolution in Belfast: “It is the Government’s responsibility to go by its own laws that it made. It does not need to get caught up in the politics around this place, it just has to look after the victims on the ground and show leadership and show courage and just bring this forward.”
He said it was up to the Irish government as co-signatory to the Good Friday Agreement to look after victims: “The two governments need to step up and take on their responsibilities before it is too late.” A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has requested advice on a victims’ pension from the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland, covering both physical and psychological injury.