Ulster Unionist Peer, Lord Empey, has written to NIO Minister Lord Duncan seeking an absolute assurance that the language used in a new Bill will ensure that no terrorists will receive a pension and also highlighting the comments of the Victims` Commissioner on the issue. The text of the letter is below:
Dear Lord Duncan,
I want to ask you about the wording around the pension for victims which is provided for in the Bill [NI (Executive Formation) Bill]. We discussed some language, including the use of ‘blameless’ and were clear, as were all other speakers, that the intention of Parliament was to ensure that anybody injured by their own hand would not be eligible for a pension. You indicated that Parliamentary draughtsmen were not happy with the use of the term ‘by their own hand’. I don`t know what the objection was, but many people in Northern Ireland, including advocacy groups as well as some political parties, my own included, have concerns that legal action, taken by a terrorist injured in that way, could result in a pension being paid to a terrorist.
You may also be aware that the Victims Commissioner has taken the view that persons injured by their own hand should be eligible for pensions. I find this an extraordinary position for her to adopt. The result is that she has lost the confidence of some political parties and the clear majority of victims` advocacy groups. I cannot see how she can continue in post and a decision by your Department to re-appoint her would be an endorsement of her position on pensions which totally contradicts your view given in Parliament on behalf of the Government.
I would appreciate your confirmation that the language used in the Bill will ensure that no terrorists will receive a pension and your thoughts on the position of the current Victims Commissioner.