24 June 2021

Finance Minister hopes row over victims pension scheme will be resolved soon

24 June 2021

The Stormont Finance minister has said he hopes the “financial wrangle” with the Treasury over the victims pension scheme will be resolved in the “not too distant future”.

Conor Murphy announced a reallocation of £19 million in the June Monitoring Round to pay for first-year costs of the Victims Payment Scheme ahead of its opening next month.

It will allow pension payments for people badly injured during the Troubles.

The Northern Ireland Executive argues that since Westminster passed legislation for the scheme, it should fund it.

Brexit (PA Media)

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis contends he has “always been clear” that the responsibility for funding the scheme lay with the Executive.

Mr Murphy said he met with Chancellor Rishi Sunak in London around three weeks ago, adding he hopes it will be resolved in the “not too distant future”.

Victims waiting for the long-delayed payments took the Executive to court.

Mr Murphy said the Stormont Executive gave an undertaking the courts to ensure the scheme can go ahead so that victims can receive their payments.

“It’s due to open next month … we had never wanted to get into a financial wrangle with Westminster over this but the British Government changed the scope of the scheme that we had agreed to, they added to it significantly, they legislated for it and then they handed over the financial responsibility to us and we’ve been having that debate with them ever since,” he said.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (PA Media)

“I met with Treasury in recent times, we’re still having ongoing discussions with them in relation to that. I hope there is resolution to that.

“But we have certainly for this year undertaken through the courts to make sure that the payments are there.”

It is estimated that the pension could end up costing £1.2 billion over its lifetime.

Mr Murphy said later years could see the scheme cost more than Stormont has the means to pay for.

“The scheme would be based on estimates of what we think will be coming forward over the course of the year … the indications that we have over the lifetime of the scheme is that the next four years beyond this will be very significant costs to the Executive, and probably beyond the means we have,” he said.

“That’s why its been important to have these discussions with the British Government in relation to their responsibilities in this matter.”

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