Statement from Relatives for Justice on the publication of British Secretary of State guidance for the Victims Payment Scheme – “Political Point Scoring and Discrimination”
Deputy Director of Relatives for Justice Andrée Murphy said:
It is with heavy hearts that Relatives for Justice read the now published guidance on a payment scheme for the injured. Sadly, the guidance for a board does not address the significant and serious concerns raised by the legislation.
The guidance perpetuates the British state narrative of the conflict by failing to address the uneven application of the rule of law during the conflict, or the matters of complex victimhood. Far from ensuring that no one who “did serious harm” will be precluded the regulations only address some of those who carried our serious harm, by failing to address state impunity.
Point 6 of the guidance in particular adds further to the discriminatory nature of the legislation now extending this to any former non-state combatant who by their action may have caused trauma or harm.
This is a catchall to exclude those the NIO deem necessary in terms of defending a British state conflict-narrative, and exclude non-state actors, principally republicans.
The NIO has refused to substantially discuss this issue since first issuing the legislation and there has been no engagement with the political parties with a view to resolving this matter – it is a fait accompli, and indicative of the approach by this Tory government around all legacy issues. This government seeks to assert its narrative to the detriment of advancing human rights and equality provisions, indeed contrary to them, and at the expense of the Good Friday Agreement, peace and reconciliation.
Those who wore a uniform and tortured people, coerced confessions, colluded in attacks and were responsible for human rights violations will avail of this scheme, while many of their victims will be excluded. This makes a nonsense of this scheme, and lays bare the politics behind it.
Relatives For Justice is on record that the scheme will run into hundreds of millions of pounds. By moving the initial required threshold for assessing both physically and psychological injures from 40% to 14%. This will open the floodgates for former state combatants with long term PTSD diagnoses, whilst slamming the door shut on virtually everyone else, who would not have had access to such a diagnosis until relatively recently. It is no wonder that The Executive Office and the Department of Finance have serious concerns regarding the scheme as this would be another blank cheque similar to, or exceeding, the scale of sums of money involved in the RHI scandal.
Concerns regarding the bereaved of the conflict have been ignored by the Secretary of State. In particular, the disproportionate exclusion of women who suffered psychological injury following close bereavement is specifically excluded. This was an opportunity to remedy this discrimination but also missed.
This is a sad moment for the injured of the conflict as a long overdue and long promised scheme to provide recognition and address need, has instead become a scheme for political point scoring and discrimination.