Stormont EO to fund Troubles pension scheme

The Northern Ireland (NI) Executive Office (EO) has confirmed that it will ensure that necessary funding is made available to guarantee victims of the Troubles receive compensation under the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme.

The EO emphasised that it remains committed to delivering the scheme, stating that this undertaking will provide "confidence" that payments will be made, "regardless of where the funding comes from".

The confirmation has also concluded legal action from Brian Turley, which sought a judgment to ensure a financial package was put in place, after the High Court previously ruled that the the EO had acted "unlawfully" in delaying the implementation of the scheme.

As reported by the BBC, a letter sent to the high court on behalf of the EO confirmed that the Department of Finance would ensure payments are made, stating that the “payment is an entitlement as indicated by the court, and regardless of whether it comes from Westminster or from our block grant, it will be paid when it is due".

It explained that when the Department of Justice requests funding, the EO is to be provided with the money by the Department of Finance "without delay", with the EO then making the necessary grants to the Department of Justice.

The letter clarified, however, that the EO remains of the view that the scheme should be funded by the Westminster government, having previously called for a meeting with Westminster to discuss such funding issues.

It stated: "Ministers will continue to progress financial discussions with the Northern Ireland Office on the basis that it remains their shared view that the scheme should be funded by the Westminster government as an addition to the block grant, and in a manner consistent with the Statement of Funding Policy."

The EO has since issued a statement on behalf of the First Minister, Deputy First Minister, Justice Minister and Finance Minister, which confirmed that the courts had accepted the undertaking that payments will be made to successful applicants under the scheme.

It continued: “We remain committed to delivering the scheme and are mindful of the needs of victims and survivors who will be recipients of the payment.

"This undertaking provides reassurance and confidence that payments will be made when they fall due under the terms of the scheme, regardless of where the funding comes from."

"We will continue to progress financial discussions with the Westminster Government in the context of their funding responsibilities for the Scheme.”

The confirmation has also been welcomed by the Wave Trauma Centre, with patron, James Nesbitt, highlighting the announcement as "wonderful news, even if it is a bit long overdue".

"I’ve known the members of the Wave Injured Group whose tenacious campaigning made this possible for many years and you could not meet a more courageous and indomitable group of men and women," he stated.

"Making this payment scheme a reality is an extraordinary achievement and I salute them.”

The EO was previously given four weeks to reach a funding solution for the Troubles victims' pension scheme, after the court ruled that the EO was required to fund payments and lump sums to ensure necessary payments can be made to victims.

Estimated costs for the scheme could reach as much as £1.2bn, according to comments previously made by Stormont EO officials, with the administration costs for the first five years expected to reach around £40m.

The scheme, which was expected to open to applications in May 2020, has faced numerous delays in its creation, primarily due to concerns that the eligibility rules may have been "discriminatory", as well as broader issues over who would fund the scheme.

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