Troubles pensions scheme to be administered by the Department of Justice

Jennifer McNern (centre) outside Belfast High Court On MondayImage copyright
Liam McBurney/PA

Image caption

The ruling came in legal challenges by two victims – including Jennifer McNern, pictured – to the continued impasse around introducing the scheme with an estimated cost of £100m

The NI Executive Office (TEO) has designated the Department of Justice (DoJ) to administer a compensation scheme for injured Troubles victims.

On Friday, a judge ruled that TEO was acting unlawfully in delaying the introduction of the scheme.

The victims’ payments were approved by Westminster in January.

The scheme would give regular payments to people seriously injured, but have been long delayed by arguments over the definition of a Troubles victim.

In a statement, TEO said it had also agreed to provide grants to “establish the administrative arrangements for the Victims’ Payments Board”.

In a statement, they said this would “allow the recruitment of board members, IT developments and other steps needed to establish the board to proceed”.

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A legal challenge to the delay was brought to the High Court in Belfast.

On Friday, Mr Justice McAlinden said TEO was “deliberately stymieing” the commencement of payouts in order to pressurise the government into funding it and, in Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill’s case, getting the eligibility criteria changed.

Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister Naomi Long said it was regrettable that the case had ever reached the courts but welcomed the judgement.

“I am hopeful that the executive can now move forward together to progress the delivery of a scheme to support those with serious physical and psychological injuries as a result of the Troubles,” she said.

“I have consistently said that I was content for my department to be designated to allow people to apply for the scheme and avoid any further delay.”

‘Resolve source of funding’

She said that preliminary work had already begun within her department to examine the practical details of implementation of the scheme.

She added that there a number of steps which need to be taken before the scheme can open but officials would keep interested parties informed of timelines.

However, she said there was still a “lack of political agreement over aspects of the scheme” and a need to resolve the source of funding for the payments.

BBC News