Pensions, Reparations and Reintegration: Parallel Processes for Injured Ex-Combatants and Civilians
Dr Luke Moffett and Prof Kieran McEvoy look at the implications of the Secretary of State's recent announcement that a public consultation on dealing with the past will go ahead in the coming weeks.
While talks remain on-going about the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, Secretary of State James Brokenshire has apparently confirmed to the Victims and Survivors Forum that a public consultation on dealing with the past will go ahead in the coming weeks. It appears likely that a pension for injured victims, a controversial and important part of the dealing with the past for those wounded and their carers, will not be part of this consultation process
The consultation will focus on the legacy mechanisms agreed in the Stormont House Agreement. These include: the Historical Investigations Unit that will focus on the investigation and potential prosecution of conflict related crimes; a truth recovery mechanism (Independent Commission for Information Retrieval); a storytelling repository (Oral History Archive); and a mechanism which is designed to explore larger themes and patterns (the Implementation and Reconciliation Group). Much of the discussion on these mechanisms has focused on those who were killed during the conflict. However, for the hundreds of individuals who were very seriously injured, and who live with the real consequences of those injuries there is no equivalent agreed process to address their needs.
Over the past five years there have been proposals by WAVE, the Commission for Victims and Survivors and others on how a pension for seriously injured victims could acknowledge and alleviate their suffering as part of a comprehensive approach to the past. However, a key stumbling block remains who should be considered a victim for the purposes of a pension. Although there is a lack of hard data on the numbers involved, it appears that somewhere in the region of a dozen former Loyalists and Republicans were so seriously injured during the conflict that they might meet the criteria to qualify for a ‘seriously injured pension’.
Some suggest that by excluding these victim perpetrators it creates a ‘hierarchy of victimhood’. On the other hand, others argue that to include people who have been involved in paramilitary violence in a pension scheme cheapens the suffering of innocent victims, creating ‘moral equivalence’ between terrorists and those who were injured at their hands. These debates are further complicated by campaigners on the behalf of those killed and injured by the police and army who point out that those responsible for such actions already enjoy comparatively generous pensions as a result of their previous service.
There are options that try to navigate these diverging approaches to address this issue. This piece suggests that one way around the current impasse would be to establish parallel processes for ex-combatants and civilians who were injured during the Troubles/conflict drawing in particular from International Humanitarian Law, usually referred to as the ‘Laws of War’. Such an approach might help to alleviate Republican concerns regarding a ‘hierarchy of victims’ by engaging directly with and taking seriously their view (and that of former Loyalist activists) that they were combatants engaged in a violent political conflict.
Kieran McEvoy is Professor of Law and Transitional Justice at the School of Law and a Senior Research Fellow at the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast.
Article originally appeared on Slugger O’Toole.
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