The son of a notorious unionist paramilitary leader has received a record payment of 400,000 pounds sterling ($640,000) from the British government in a move which has angered the families of those he killed.
The payment has been issued to Stewart Gregg, son of UDA murder gang leader John ‘Grugg’ Gregg, as compensation for his father’s death in the course of a loyalist feud.
The payment was made on the basis of ‘psychological trauma’, but was far, far higher than those issued in similar circumstances to nationalist victims of the conflict.
From the Rathcoole estate in Newtownabbey, County Antrim, Gregg became notorious as the man who attempted the assassination of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams in 1984.
His south-east Antrim UDA gang was also believed to be responsible for a series of ruthless sectarian killings, including the murders of Catholic postman Danny McColgan and schoolboy Gavin Brett.
Gregg ultimately died in a gun attack on a taxi in the docks area of Belfast in 2003. He lost his life after he and his supporters became embroiled in a bitter internecine feud with rival loyalist Johnny Adair.
UDA member Robert Carson also died in hospital after the attack, in which a taxi driver was seriously injured. Gregg’s son and another passenger escaped unhurt in the attack. Although the UDA had many close links to the British Crown forces at the time, there have been no allegations of British involvement in his life or death.
Ann Service, whose son Brian was shot in the head in a sectarian attack in north Belfast in 1998, said she was stunned at the payment, the highest of its kind ever made.
Mrs Service, whose 25-year-old son was shot by the UDA as he returned home in the early hours of Halloween, said she and other relatives of victims had to go “cap in hand” for compensation, and had received a relative pittance.
“It’s not about money for us but we know lots of people killed in front of families who got nothing,” Mrs Service said.
“When Brian was killed they gave you the funeral and the burial costs.”
“I remember standing at his grave and he was in the ground and I was standing above and thinking it would have been better if he hadn’t been born.
“To have someone say that his life wasn’t worth anything. I said: ‘You’re worth nothing in their eyes, son.”
In a separate development, the Six-County administration’s plans to pay 60 million pounds to a notorious group of prison warders have been widely criticised.
Although senior warders in the North’s prisons were recently condemned in a report by Britain’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for using high levels of violence against Catholic prisoners, they stand to receive cash payments of over 110,000 pounds sterling ($175,000), plus a generous pension, as a ‘golden handshake’ under the proposed new plan.
Sinn Fein justice spokesman Raymond McCartney denied the warders were being rewarded for their brutality and sectarianism.
“From Sinn Fein’s perspective we would like to see this coming for ward not as a redundancy package that is held in isolation but as one of a number of fundamental steps towards the much needed reform of the prison service,” he said.
“It is vital to see the removal of 600 prison staff and a recruiting programme set in place to change the culture and practice within the prison service and bring it into the 21st century.”