‘Hierarchy of victims’ may be used for payment scheme

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The British government once again stands accused of reneging on its commitments after it insisted on a legal definition of a victim which would exclude thousands of nationalists and republicans.

A Sinn Féin delegation said they had a “robust and frank exchange” on the issue of the legacy of the conflict with the British Direct Ruler Brandon Lewis (pictured).

Speaking after the meeting Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was “very clear” that the British government has been turning its back on the 2014 Stormont House Agreement’s legacy mechanisms.

“It is now also rejecting the Westminster legal definition of a victim in its approach to dealing with victims’ payment,” she said.

The payment scheme or pension is intended to provide financial support to thousands of people who were seriously injured during the conflict, involving at least 40,000 people.

A judge-led board will decide who qualifies for the scheme, with the British government insisting it would only apply to people who were injured “through no fault of their own”.

Sinn Féin was already angry at that, but new draft guidelines appear to mean than anyone with a conviction of more than two-and-a-half years will be ineligible.

“Sinn Féin remains committed to the provision of a victims’ payment based on need and the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement in a human right compliant manner,” Ms McDonald said.

“The recent Westminster Regulations will potentially exclude thousands of victims from the Nationalist and Republican community from accessing the payment scheme.

“We told him [Brandon Lewis] that the British government approach was both discriminatory and unacceptable.

“We also reminded him of British government’s obligations to fund the scheme in full.

“By introducing a hierarchy of victimhood the British government is undermining attempts to heal the wounds of the past and promote a genuine reconciliation process.”

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