Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Saturday, 24 January 2009

Anger over Troubles payment plan

Republican mural in Belfast
Families of paramilitary group members could also be compensated

Controversial proposals to pay compensation to the families of all those killed during the Troubles have been widely criticised.

The families of paramilitary victims, members of the security forces and civilians who were killed would all be entitled to the same amount - £12,000.

The Consultative Group on the Past is to recommend the idea on Wednesday.

Former first minister of Northern Ireland Lord Trimble told the BBC there was a lot of anger over the idea.

The Consultative Group on the Past is an independent group set up to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland's Troubles, during which more than 3,000 people died.

Lord Trimble, the former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he did not believe the idea would get much support.

"What the victims of the Troubles want is first of all to be remembered and they want to feel that what they suffered was not in vain, that their sacrifice helped to build a better, more safer, more democratic future for people in Northern Ireland and to come forward first with money is offensive," he said.

Lord Trimble, who said he had not yet seen the report, added that there was already a compensation scheme and a memorial fund in place.

RUC widow Phyllis Carrothers said she was "shocked and hurt" by the proposal.

"My initial feelings are of shock, disbelief and hurt," said Mrs Carrothers, whose husband Douglas was killed in 1991 by a car bomb in Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh.

A payment of £12,000 is to be recommended

"I actually didn't think I'd be hearing anything about this until Wednesday so it did come as a double shock from that point of view.

"I'm hurt because I don't think the perpetrators of murders and those murdered like my husband should be treated on a level playing field, and that's causing a sense of deep, deep hurt within me."

Victims commissioner Mike Nesbitt questioned the idea of a payment. He said that there was no evidence that a "one size fits all" solution would work for victims.

"The money is as likely to divide a family as assist it," Mr Nesbitt said.

He also pointed to those who had been injured in the Troubles and asked how these might be helped. Whilst a £12,000 cheque might be useful for a lot of survivors, it might not be for everyone, he said.

"The leaking of the report is not just unhelpful, it is damaging, particularly to individual victims and survivors," Mr Nestbitt added.

"Once again the old hurts are aired, but not resolved."

Colin Parry, whose 12-year-old son Tim was killed by an IRA bomb left in a litter bin in Warrington in 1993, said he was disgusted that the families of paramilitaries could receive a payment.

"The idea that [somebody who sets out to kill] is a victim as much as I am, using my example, I think for many people is offensive."

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

Northern Ireland's First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Peter Robinson, said while he had not seen a copy of the report, he was "disturbed" by media reports of its contents.

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

What has been reported today may be true or may be malicious but until we know, people should reserve judgement
Alex Attwood, SDLP

"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".

"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."

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."

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.

Legacy

BBC correspondent Mark Simpson said the problem of how to deal with Northern Ireland's brutal past had cast a shadow on the peace process.

Speculating on the advisory group's reasoning, he said: "They're thinking there should be no hierarchy - a mother's tears are a mother's tears if you like but that's not how the unionists see it.

"They view the Troubles largely as the goodies against the baddies - the good security forces against the bad terrorists.

"Obviously Sinn Fein take a very different view and squaring that circle will not be easy."

He said the final decision would be up to the prime minister and he would have to consider the issue in not just financial terms but also political ones.



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