The ‘debate’ on a pension for the injured of the conflict is one that absolutely baffles me.
A pension for those worst injured as they get older and cope with growing effects of their injuries – who can argue against that? Ex-RUC injured get a pension and access to a range of schemes. Good. Why shouldn’t everyone have access to a fair and secure pension when they live every day in pain? Surely it’s the least our post conflict society can do.
But there are some who want to exclude. The DUP are proposing a bill that excludes those with political convictions or were ‘suspected’ of paramilitary actions.
It’s a position, posturing as politics, which has no place for human compassion. It’s a zealot-like agenda trying to establish “innocence” from “terrorism”, without a single mention of state killings, collusion or decades of impunity. And all to the cost of those who live every day in pain. That many of those who make this call are beneficiaries of state security pensions only highlights the agenda. It is as hypocritical as it is lacking in any morality
Make no mistake, if a one sided pension is secured this will mean a full frontal assault on the current definition of victims, and our community which suffered so much at the hands of the state and its proxies will be written out. All to serve the promotion of one narrative of our conflict.
A fully inclusive pension for ALL of the most seriously injured is the only path to be taken.
The only issue I have is that the debate is so narrow, as it targets only the ‘most physically injured’. There are less visibly injured who suffer physically and psychologically who will be excluded. And consideration must be given to the families who were bereaved. Families thrown into poverty as well as despair following the killings of their loved ones.
The stories of how NIO Compensation Courts treated anyone, whose loved ones were not members of security forces, are harrowing. Parents given the paltry price of a burial because their child was of “no monetary value”. Young wives with large families told they were “still good looking” and would find another man, sent away with pittance and humiliation. Husbands living with the psychological violence of trauma, told their wives never worked so were “not worth compensation”.
While our processes for dealing with the past focus on the circumstances of deaths families cannot separate the subsequent injustices they suffered.
So actually, rather than one discriminatory scheme that reinforces pain and trauma, there is a need for a fuller scheme which includes the bereaved and injured and which acknowledges the social and economic impacts of conflict deaths and injuries. An inclusive approach that recognises that the security community received significant packages and any new scheme must achieve equality for all. And importantly a scheme that connects to the search for truth and justice.
Our processes to deal with the past should reflect how our conflict was experienced in all of its complexity – equally and without discrimination.