Troubles victims to take NI Executive to court over delays to pension scheme

Victims of the Troubles plan to begin legal action on Friday over the Northern Ireland (NI) Executive's failure to start the planned pension scheme, despite it being signed into legislation in January.

The move to legal action follows numerous delays for the scheme, with ongoing confusion as to who should fund the scheme.

Speaking to the BBC, NI secretary Brandon Lewis, has once again insisted that the estimated £100m cost associated with the scheme should rest with Stormont, stating that this “was agreed as part of the budget the executive have”.

In February, the DUP’s Westminster leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, also stated stated that it would be "wrong" to put the cost on the NI Executive, emphasising that victims had already been waiting too long already, though little progress has been made since.

Lewis has now confirmed that there had also been little progress in appointing a department to operate the scheme, though he stated he was “hopeful” that this would be arranged “in the imminent future”.

He added: "The first minister is absolutely determined to get this delivered and is as frustrated as we all are that this has taken too long already.”

However, speaking to Radio Ulster, Wave Injured Group campaigner, Alan McBride, confirmed that campaigners would be serving the NI Executive with notice to put the correct structures in place or face “the embarrassing situation” of being taken to court by the victims of the troubles.

He acknowledged that government attention may be divided amid the current crisis, but emphasised that the issue predated the pandemic, with the scheme originally agreed to in 2014.

He added: "It is now up to our politicians to get this over the line and to do what is legally and morally required of them," he said.

"This is the responsibility of government, the responsibility of the Executive Office."

According to the BBC, NI victims commissioner Judith Thompson has also acknowledged the unacceptable delays, stating that they were “an insult literally added to injury”.

The process for applicants is still expected to open as scheduled, next Friday, despite the delays.

A judge-led board will decide who qualifies for the government payment scheme, with Thompson previously stressing the need for assessments to be handled "sensitively".

Annuity payments, for those who qualify, will range from £2,000 to £10,000 per year.

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