Page last updated at 19:21 GMT, Friday, 23 January 2009

Troubles victims' payment planned

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A payment of £12,000 is to be recommended

By Vincent Kearney
Home affairs correspondent

The government is to be asked to pay £12,000 to the families of all those killed during the Troubles - including members of paramilitary groups.

The families of paramilitary victims, members of the security forces and civilians who were killed will all be entitled to the same amount.

The payment is expected to be recommended by the group set up to advise on how to deal with the past.

The Consultative Group on the Past is to publish its report next week.

If the recommendation is accepted by the government, the cost would be an estimated £40m.

The group, co-chaired by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley, is expected to say there should be no hierarchy of victims and that everyone should be treated in the same way.

That would mean the family of the IRA Shankill bomber Thomas Begley would receive the same for his death as those of the families of the nine civilians he killed.

Likewise, the families of two UVF members killed while they planted a bomb that also killed three members of the Miami Showband in 1975 will be entitled to the same payment as those of the victims.

"As yet, I have not seen a copy of the group's recommendations but media reports on the issue are both disappointing and disturbing," said Northern Ireland's first minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson.

The proposal endorses the morally flawed notion that a terrorist killed while undertaking a mission of murder has the same status as an innocent civilian murdered in a bomb attack
Jim Nicholson, UUP MEP

"The DUP has consistently opposed any equation between the perpetrator of crimes during the Troubles and the innocent victim.

"Terrorists died carrying out their evil and wicked deeds while innocent men, women and children were wiped out by merciless gangsters."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said Sinn Féin's position "all along has been that this report has to be an independent report".

"It has to recognise the importance of an independent approach to it, it has to be victims-centred, and I think that's what Denis Bradley and Lord Eames have to deliver.

"I think that obviously dealing with the past is something which is of tremendous importance and significance for all, but I think that once the report is published for all to see, it should be studied and I think we can make more definitive comments after that."

The SDLP's Alex Attwood said: "What has been reported today may be true or may be malicious but until we know, people should reserve judgement."

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson warned against implementing a proposal he condemned as "immoral".

Lord Eames and Denis Bradley
The group is co-chaired by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley

"The proposal endorses the morally flawed notion that a terrorist killed while undertaking a mission of murder has the same status as an innocent civilian murdered in a bomb attack or a member of the security forces murdered in front of their family," he said.

Alliance justice spokesman Stephen Farry said there was a "danger that the proposal for compensation could overshadow the Consultative Group on the Past's other good work."

TUV leader Jim Allister described the recommendation that £12,000 is paid to the families of all those killed during the Troubles - irrespective of how they met their deaths - as "nothing short of outrageous".

The Consultative Group on the Past is also expected to recommend the creation of a five year legacy commission, appointed by the British and Irish governments, to deal with the past - and to say there should be no further public inquiries.

The total cost of the proposals would be £300m, and the Irish government will be asked to make a significant contribution.

More than 3,000 people died during the Northern Ireland Troubles and the group was set up to find ways forward in dealing with that legacy.

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