Victims’ payments-who is to blame?

On 22nd October 2019 the British government launched a consultation on a ‘Victims’ Payment Scheme’. 

The consultation closed on 26th November 2019.

The legislation was made on 31st January 2020 at 11.20am and laid before Parliament at 2.30pm that day.

They were the Victims’ Payments Regulations 2020 No. 103, made under the powers conferred by sections 10 and 11 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc ) Act 2019.

The NIO issued the following press release.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Julian Smith CBE MP, has today signed new legislation establishing a victims payments scheme.

This scheme acknowledges the harm caused to those people injured through no fault of their own in the Troubles through annual payments of c. £2,000 to £10,000 for the rest of their lives.

Following consultation, changes have been made to the scheme to increase the number of injured people who will qualify, and to benefit spouses and carers looking after those who were seriously injured. It will not apply to those who were injured due to their own actions or who committed serious criminal offences. An independent judge-led board will make decisions on whether payments should be made where there is compelling evidence that a payment would not be appropriate.

Secretary of State Julian Smith said: “The Troubles had a devastating impact on many, and the time has come to implement a victims payments scheme to deliver for those who need it most and for those injured through no fault of their own.

“I would like to pay tribute to the courage of those people who have fought long and hard to see such a scheme.

“We have talked about this for long enough. It is time to get it done.”

The Troubles had a profound and often devastating impact on too many people, in Northern Ireland and beyond. When we speak about the Troubles we rightly talk about the many violent deaths, but it is also vital that we do not overlook the harm caused to those who were seriously injured in Troubles incidents.

Many of the people who were injured have to live with a daily reminder of the impact of that terrible event or events – whether through loss of mobility, loss of limbs, psychological trauma or some other life limiting health condition or disability.

Following the recent consultation, the Secretary of State has introduced new rules for the scheme, so that the needs of those injured in the Troubles through no fault of their own receive the recognition that they deserve.

The new scheme will mean:

*The payment can be transferred to a spouse, civil partner, cohabiting partner, registered carer or anyone who provided a substantial amount of care on a regular basis for ten years on death of the injured person.

*The date parameters for the scheme will be Jan 1966 – Apr 2010, but an independent Board will also have discretion to consider applications for incidents outside these dates which they consider it would be in line with the purpose of the scheme to include.

*Awards may only be adjusted for historic compensation where that historic compensation is higher than a threshold.

*Payments through the scheme will not impact income-related benefits or tax (including income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax).

*Anyone injured anywhere in the UK who meet the other eligibility criteria will be eligible for the scheme (regardless of residency). And any UK citizen, or person of NI, injured in Europe will be eligible.

The discussions and delay of the past few years have gone on long enough. The time has come to get this done and deliver for those people who will benefit most.

The new Regulations will mean that from May, victims can apply for payments, and the system has been designed to support those seriously injured and traumatised in the Troubles.

This new scheme and legislation being introduced today puts victims and their needs at the heart of Government’s approach to dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

Whilst it was legislation made at Westminster, with some minor exceptions the Regulations extended to Northern Ireland only.

A number of provisions came into force on 24th February 2020. Particularly  , the provisions of Schedule 1. This Schedule provides for the formation of a Board. The law required the Executive Office to designate a Northern Ireland Department to exercise the administrative functions of the Board on the Board’s behalf.

This has not been done, on time or at all.

The Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission [“NIJAC”] must appoint all the members of the Board. This has not been done, because NIJAC has received no request from the Executive Office to so do.

I only became aware of this situation on 20th May.

We are now told that no action has been taken regarding the legal duties of the Executive because there is a row over funding.

The remaining regulations come into force on 29th May, the date when victims thought they could make application for compensation.

Nothing will happen on that date.

It is clear that neither Covid-19 nor a row  about the source of funding would have prevented the Executive from nominating a Department nor giving instructions to NIJAC.

It is equally clear that despite the Executive knowing that the date would not be met, even when visualised in early pre-Covid March, they kept quiet.

So, how did this all come about?

Here’s what the News Letter reported on 4th  February 2020

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson said face-to-face assessments “must be handled sensitively” while DUP leader Arlene Foster welcomed the fact that money “will not be awarded to victim makers”. But Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill says the government “appears intent on excluding large sections of our society” from the money. Ulster Human Rights Watch welcomed the news but “will continue to pressurise Government for clarity” on how pereptrators are excluded.

At the same time Foster was telling the media that the NI budget could not fund the scheme and the Victims’ Commissioner was agreeing with her.

So, on one view of it , it’s a cock up between Westminster and Stormont and a misunderstanding as to where the money was coming from to fund the scheme.

When Stormont re-opened on 11th January, it was after tortuous discussions, including finance. The Executive knew that Westminster was legally committed to making laws for Northern Ireland, including a victims’ payment scheme.

On 17th February, that man for all seasons, Jeffrey Donaldson was quoted :

A senior DUP MP is “hopeful” that the Treasury will be “forthcoming” in funding a pension scheme for victims of the Troubles. 

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the DUP’s Westminster leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, emphasised that victims had already been waiting too long for the payments.

“The next financial year begins in April,” Donaldson commented, “So the sooner we can get a commitment to fund the scheme, the sooner the innocent victims can start to receive their payments.

“Frankly, they have been waiting too long already, and I hope that the Treasury will recognise the need to provide this funding as soon as possible.

“We would hope that the Treasury will be forthcoming with funding,” he stated. 

That statement was made a week before the first phase of the scheme was to become operational.

But is it the usual tale of  Stormont incompetence or is it something more?

At the Executive Office Committee meeting on 20th May, Foster said “we don’t have the wherewithal in the block grant…this is a legitimate expectation”.  It is of course law, not an expectation.

The SFIRA Deputy First Minister said this “it is one part of the package of legacy measures that need to be implemented… all things need to be delivered upon”.

Doug Beattie [ that towering intellect] replied: “you’re right of course”.

Later Bomber Anderson, who also graces the committee said “there isn’t the funding in the budget, the responsibility resides with the British government and we need full implementation of the Stormont House Review.”

Readers will know  that SFIRA were unhappy with the legislation, which seeks to exclude the likes of Kelly , the Shankill bomber. The Shinners are also unhappy with proposals for amnesty for members of the armed forces.

So, the message is clear, the Victims’ Payment Scheme is going nowhere, courtesy of yet another SFIRA veto.

As before , the DUP is complicit in this, terrified of another Stormont collapse and loss of power. The Official Unionists don’t count and the Alliance Party, particularly the Justice Minister, is silent.

 

The toll on victims is unimaginable.

Who was Willie Frazer?

                                  

In Northern Ireland, nothing is ever as it seems.

Frazer was a leading member of Fair, in Markethill, the epicentre of victims’ groups.

Here is the BBC report from November 2012.

“Willie Frazer, the director of a victims’ group whose funding has been frozen, has said he is stepping down from his role.

A European funding body wants £350,000 which it gave to Fair returned.

Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair) has also had funding from the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers stopped.

Mr Frazer said on Friday that he was quitting his post because he did not want members of Fair to suffer.”

The issue disappeared. Frazer continued to be a “victims’ campaigner” sometimes acting the maggot, as some would say.

Then , magically, he attracted new funding from you and me.

Arlene Foster  became his new best friend and visited FRPU, an interesting acronym.

Then the Irish News published this.

“19 June, 2019 01:00

FUNDING for a charity linked to loyalist campaigner Willie Frazer has been withdrawn.

The Victims and Survivors Service pulled the cash from the Family Research and Policy Unit (FRPU) last month.

The service provides funding to community and voluntary organisations which deliver “support and services in a wide range of areas including health and wellbeing and advocacy support”.

Until recently the FRPU was based in Markethill in Co Armagh.”

So , apart from being careless with public money, did Willie have any other vices?

BBC Spotlight was less than convincing about their conversations with him but Pastor Barry has weighed in, more less confirming the story. Willie supplied arms to Protestant terrorists.

In 2004 Willie judicially reviewed the state regarding access to legal arms. The case is reported at 2004 NIQB 68.

The judgment contained the following correspondence:

By letter dated 12 May 2003 from the Firearms and Explosives Branch of the Northern Ireland Office the applicant was informed that the Chief Constable had revoked his Firearms Certificate as the applicant was unfit to be in possession of firearms and that:

“He based his decision on a reliable intelligence report that you associated with loyalist terrorist organisations. He considered that your association with these organisations did not arise from your work with FAIR and could not be described as legitimate.”

 

In a response dated 20 May 2003 the applicant [Willie Frazer]  disagreed that there was no specific threat to his life and referred to further evidence supporting such a threat as well as indicating that it was incumbent on the Northern Ireland Office to conduct their own enquiries into the matter. In relation to the alleged terrorist associations the applicant stated:

“Contrary to the rather hollow claims of the Chief Constable I have no links whatsoever with any paramilitary movements.” 

[My underlining]

[41] In a letter dated 2 June 2003 the Secretary of State refused the applicant’s appeal stating:

“(1) You did not need a PPW as Special Branch have advised that you are not the subject

of a specific threat.

(2)You are unfit to have firearms and ammunition as the police have intelligence from a reliable source to

indicate that you have recently associated with loyalist terrorist organisations.”

So in the looking glass world of Northern Ireland, the State, which funded Frazer handsomely, said that he was involved with terrorism, though he was never charged with any such offence.

Frazer  [whose friends would now like him to be remembered as a leader of the fight against republican violence] denied on oath that he had any such links.

Perhaps the answer is to be found in his mysterious escape from sanction when the European money went missing.

Was Willie turned? Was he made an offer by the State? Why did he promise so much and deliver so little? Was he a lightning conductor for protest? Did he involve himself in so many protests in order to report to his masters?

Given the statistics from Stevens and others, it’s odds on that Willie was a tout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My life in a Banana Republic -June 2017

Jambo!

I have been very busy and most anxious. As the CEO of the Community Research and Action Programme, I was worried about our income. The Jeremiahs said that we would be forced to close our door, that there would be no forthcoming money. But Hey Presto! money comes from the Great Parliament on the Hill and from the Peaceful Fund , Number Four. Our bacons were saved. All staff were kept on, even Billy, whom I have yet to meet but who performs a valuable security role, I am told.

And what of the Great She Elephant? What an achievement ! It is like the book “From log cabin to White House”. Here is this humble lawyer, from a cottage on the edge of Europe, who had rarely been in Belfast, never mind London, now at the centre of power. This would not happen in my country. You need to be in the right tribe to achieve greatness. I have written to her and invited her to come to CRAP.

Dingle pointed out to me that there are three barristers in the DUP MPs plus Jim Allister in the TUV. This is because,  he says,  the Bar Library is a Cold House for Unionists. This puzzled me. In Africa , lawyers become freedom fighters and leaders of the country. Dingle says that here “the other side” prefer the Lisburn Road, Donegal, great works of art and a judicial appointment. He challenged me to name a Republican MLA/MP lawyer. This bodes unwell for the future.

Now that my income is assured for some time, I have moved from the Biblical lands and purchased a dwelling in East. This means that Emma Aardvaark Little Pengelly is not my MP but it is now Gavin Robinson. I like him. He has the bearing of a great chief. In my country there is no place at the top table for skinny persons. They smack of liberalism, sandals and veganism. Gavin surely eats like a chief and has chiefly bearing. He can also make fearsome speeches, Dingle says. My new home, a modest terrace house is not in a shared space, apparently. This means that the tribesmen erect symbols of their supremacy and challenge the native troops to interfere. They do not , because they are few in number and led by men who eat as much as Gavin.

I wrote to my Uncle, the President , about Brexit. He is a wise man. Now in his eighties, he has seen it all before. Many times in Africa, some strong man wanted to make alliances. Once we got rid of the white man, it was other persons, such as Gadafy. Soon his son will rule Libya again. But I digress. My uncle said that this Brexit thing is just a manifestation of Little Britain. I told him that this programme was funny, especially the fellow in the wheelchair. He was cross that I did not read history. He said that Britain had always tried to keep away from the Foreigner Jonny. “Splendid Isolation” he called it. I thanked him.

He said that “when Arlene visits CRAP, remind her about what Gladstone said about the Irish”.

I have not had time to consider this because I have been researching pallets. This is a puzzle. Dingle says that when he was a boy, bonfires consisted of rubbish. Old sofas, someone’s old shed, a rotten fence, and worse. Boys went out in search of material and dragged it through the streets to the site. Now the bonfire is made up of hundreds of pallets. These are not disposed of . They are perfectly useful. They cost about £10 each. I know not how many are in a bonfire. Someone is complicit in this bonfire thing.

I have gone on for too long. CRAP is  functioning well. We give money to deserving cases. Cookers, washing machines and fridge freezers. There are no tower blocks in our  bailiwick. I went out and checked.

Sometimes it is important that we immigrants look after the natives.

Jambo!

My life in a banana republic:coup d’etat

Jambo!

I have never before written to you twice in a month but these are extraordinary times.

Here at C.R.A.P we were today having our office party. While some of the boys and girls drank cheap beer and ate  small sausages, I was watching events from your assembly on the hill. The Great She Elephant was in difficulty. Some fellows who are not in government want to remove her. She called it a ‘coup d’etat’.

I and my family have great experience of coups. First we had one against the whites. Then we had one against a prime minister who had been voted for by some people, finally we had one against the rival tribe.

THIS IS NOT A COUP!

If it were there would be tension, martial law, imprisonment without trial,curfew, shootings of civilians and tanks. All these things are familiar to the older persons here but were absent today. This was just some fellows jousting in the chamber. A while ago they were all in government together and were kindly to each other. I’m sure that not one carried a gun or a stick or punched anyone in the great hall. It was a very power-sharing coup.

Which brings me to my other point. When are we going to hear the smack of firm government?

The Great She Elephant has said things about Mr Bell. Why did she not smite down this man at the time? Why did the men of the DUP not come to her aid? Peter is a Red Beret. Jeffrey was in special forces. Emma’s father handled missiles. Could not they have taken Bell to task? Why was he not imprisoned? Beaten with sticks? His lands confiscated and his family humiliated?

My grandfather, the first president of our country had no time for such persons, he ate those who disagreed with him.

So today in my country there are no SpAds, officials, clergy or other such hangers on.

And another thing! Why does she not control the television and radio? Then these things would not have amounted [as my friend Donald says] to a hill of beans. Put that Nolan fellow under house arrest! Let us hear what delicious things Gregory has found out about him. Deport Crawley!

Truly today was remarkable. Your Speaker is a fine fellow. He knows upon what side is his toast buttered. I am suggesting to my Uncle that he is invited to deliver the next annual lecture on the Democratic Process in our parliament.

I return to my theme. Be firm, Great She Elephant. Give these fellows their orders, like Lord Wellington. Then send them home.

Then eat your intensively heat reared Christmas Turkey in peace.

Jambo!

The scandal of children’s safety in Northern Ireland

As in the rest of the UK and probably elsewhere, the landscape is littered with organisations , some Quangos, some charities , on the face of it, concerned about children.

In Northern Ireland , to mention a few, there is Barnados, the NSPCC, the NICCY and the Safeguarding Board NI.

You might think, Dear Reader, that one body could protect our children.

Not so. All these bodies and more, receive public money , our pennies, when in the street, with the aim of protecting children from physical violence , emotional violence, sexual abuse and other discrimination.

Since I became aware of this problem, in the early 1980s, I have wondered what the government was doing to protect children.

Sadly, I have come to the view, articulated in the song “I’d like to help you son but you’re too young to vote”.

Some time ago , the government decided that an overarching body should protect children. The clue is in the title of this body…the Safeguarding Board for NI.

It has a chairman, three non executive directors [which means that OFMDFM appoints them] and at least 16 other members.

It has five regional panels , a case management review panel  and other panels.

It has a number of other committees, including a “policies and procedures” committee , an “interfaith sub group” [ god help us] and an “education and training” group.

Alexis Jay’s report [suppressed since February of this year] makes for shocking reading. Essentially it says that nobody has got a grip of the disparate bodies who turn up and say that they are concerned about children.

Essentially, it says that the Safeguarding  Board is fuck all use. That’s not language that is  deployed  but to the parents of affected children that’s what it amounts to.

Children continue to die and children are still abused while this hopeless organisation carries on.

You have probably heard lots of “experts” talk about children on Good Morning Ulster, Nolan and other media. Not one has raised this issue.

It begs the question, common in Northern Ireland, are they slave to the fee , the establishment or to the truth? Perhaps they will let us know, particularly where the safety of children is at stake.

Meanwhile, all these fat ladies and pale men continue to draw their gross salaries and the talking heads ignore the problem.

My life in a banana republic: June

Jambo, Jambo!

My great news is that I will soon be graduating from the Queen’s great university [where her anthem is no longer heard].

The badness is that , because of your tribal wars, I may return to my own peaceful African country.

The Great She Elephant failed to win an OUT vote yet she remains in power. How can her tribe explain that?

The two tribes united to say that they wanted to remain in Ireland and the EU. The Picts across the water voted similarly. So from Cork to Aberdeen the people are of one voice.

Meanwhile one Eton boy is resigning as Prime Minister and another, who might have beaten him or given him lines, wants to take the job.  I seem to remember the BBC casting fun at my country’s rulers.

The leader of the opposition is a strange man who reads many emails and dresses in the dark. Nobody believes that he can be a Head Man, because he is a ganch. This is a word my Sandy Row friends taught me.

There is a vacuum, in my country the generals would by now have parked the tanks on the lawns.

What has happened to the Mother of Parliaments?

Meantime , Ministers from the new assembly are sneaking around burying bad news. The Great She Elephant thinks that her football team, which played 4 , won 1 and scored 2 goals, should be greeted as heroes. Do you remember Winnie Mandela’s football team? Ask the family of Stompi Moeketsi. Politicians should do what they do best, telling lies, not supporting football.

To make it more confusing, Her Gracious Majesty visited the Giant’s Causeway today. I wonder if she thinks it was made 6,000 years ago?

My brother rang me. He has an import/export business in Africa. It does trade from Egypt to Cape Town. He offered me a job. He says I should come home to a stable country where there is a legitimate government, where the tribes worked out a pecking order fifty years ago and where there is a market for goods.

This offer is very tempting.

Jambo jambo!

The Docklands bomb

On 9th February 1996 Slab Murphy’s South Armagh IRA gang bombed the Docklands. The bomb consisted of a fertiliser mix , accelerated by Semtex, supplied by Libya.

Readers of this blog will know of the history of British involvement with Gadafy and the current Parliamentary inquiries.

Victims and survivors of Semtex bombs still await reparation from Libya. Over 150 took legal action in April 2006 and were blocked by the unholy alliance of Bush,  Blair and Gadafy. Over 1,000 others have a moral claim to reparation.

The big issue is ‘from whence will the money come?’

The British Government says that we must await a stable Libyan government. There has been chaos in Libya since 2011. Given that there are currently three rival governments, stability seems a long way off.

Frozen in UK bank accounts is £9.4 billion , most of it the property of Gadafy, his family and  his henchmen. This would provide reparation  to thousands of victims all over the United Kingdom but presently, the government will not legislate to release it.

A campaign has been under way since the middle of 2015 to secure release.

McCue and Co , solicitors in London, have led this campaign and they and a number of other people have given evidence in support , to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. Further activity is planned for 2016.

Imagine my shock  to find that Diane Dodds MEP, told the European Parliament; “we must see a relative and sustainable peace in Libya in order to further our goal of negotiating a fair financial settlement for those innocent victims”. So the DUP’s MEP agrees with the British Government.

In fact in January 2016, and under her watch, the EU renewed its legislation for the freezing of funds and neither she nor any other unionist politician seemed to notice.

Jeffrey Donaldson is DUP Chief Whip. In the DUP 2015 election manifesto, the DUP  said ” the DUP is not beholden to any national party”. At that point they were in a fever of expectation that they would hold the balance of power. In November 2015 David Cameron appointed Donaldson Britain’s Trade Envoy to Egypt. Jeffrey gushed in the press about his appointment.

In  correspondence with me about Diane Dodds’ statement, where he was abusive and ill tempered, he said that he was elected to represent “ALL innocent victims”. So I thought that I would take a look at both the DUP’s 2015 election manifesto and its grandly entitled “Northern Ireland Plan”. Neither document mentions the securing of compensation or reparations for victims. If he were so elected, it seems to have happened by osmosis.

Jeffrey then referred to me as one of ‘the select few’. I’m not easily offended and I’m a big boy, well bigger that Jeffrey anyway; but I wonder if that is his view of victims and survivors generally, when they take legal action against a dictator?

Stung at my criticism of Diane,  the Egyptian Trade Envoy said;”I will be asking your legal team to reflect on the damage such unwarranted exchanges does [sic] to our combined efforts” An interesting idea. I wonder how often he approaches other lawyers about their clients? Perhaps it’s a DUP thing to try to intimidate victims and survivors. Any views, Arlene?

The fact is that neither he nor any other unionist has made a scrap of difference to the campaign for reparations for me or for the people hideously maimed.

Meanwhile , let’s think about someone more important.  Zaoui Berezag. He was injured in the Docklands bomb. In September 2015 his wife said “My Zaoui is blind , paralysed, brain damaged and has no leg’. He is very disabled and now he is in nappies.” Many other survivors of Libyan Semtex bombs are similarly afflicted.

James McArdle was convicted of conspiracy to cause the Docklands bombing and in June 1998 he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

On 25 July 2000 the Queen granted McArdle  the Royal Prerogative of Mercy and he was released.

Zaoui remains imprisoned by his injuries and in dire financial straits.

Meanwhile Jeffrey , Her Britannic Majesty’s Trade Envoy, is spending this week in Egypt, where President Sisi has killed 2,500 political opponents and represses gays.