UUP MLA and Executive Office Committee Vice-Chair, Doug Beattie MC has said that while the UK Government should be contributing funds for the Victims’ Payment Scheme, we also need to hear what the reasons are for the delay in Northern Ireland in putting the infrastructure in place to administer the scheme.
Doug Beattie MC MLA said:
“Like most things in Northern Ireland the Victims’ Payment Scheme has now come down to an argument about money. But in doing so it misses some key issues.
“Firstly, this is a UK wide scheme and will apply to victims in Birmingham, Manchester and London as much as it will apply to victims in Londonderry, Lisburn or Belfast. To say this must be paid for solely from the Northern Ireland budget just doesn’t add up.
“Secondly this is UK Government Legislation. The Government should not have brought this payment into law if they had not worked through all the issues that are needed to support the scheme.
“Thirdly what about the responsibilities of the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and The Executive Office (TEO). Between them they have failed victims by not even communicating that this scheme will not be in place on 29 May as expected.
“Indeed, had the question not been asked at the Executive Committee when would victims have found out this scheme has descended into farce?
“The basic facts are that the scaffolding that supports the Victims’ Payment Scheme is not in place. There has been no administrative department nominated to run the scheme, no scheme Board appointed and that is a clear failing of the TEO.
“Some of the questions now have to be around when this legislation will be enacted. Is there unity within the Executive on this issue or has Sinn Fein, who hold the purse strings, made it clear they will contribute nothing to the scheme because they did not get their way in respect of perpetrators not getting a payment?
“While I believe the UK Government should pay a large proportion of the budget towards the Victims’ Payment Scheme I also believe that Northern Ireland must also pay its way. But if this scheme is being stalled due to politicking within The Executive Office then let’s get that out in the open. Let’s see the issue for what it is so victims know who to look to when they are denied what they have been fighting for, for over a decade.”