Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP has called on Finance Minister Conor Murphy to step up and address the needs of victims and survivors by making a budgetary allocation to the Victims Payment Scheme for 2021/22.
The Foyle MP said that the public row between the Department of Finance and the Northern Ireland Office at the eleventh hour serves no one’s interests and that a longer term funding resolution must be reached with a significant contribution from the British Government.
Colum Eastwood MP said:
“It is astounding that we are again in a situation where victims and survivors who have suffered permanent disablement as a result of harrowing experiences and injuries sustained during conflict have to fight the Executive and the British Government for payments they were promised by both. It is a disgrace that this situation has been allowed to drift for so long with no resolution to questions of finance only months before the scheme is expected to go live.
“The eleventh hour blame game playing out in public between the Finance Minister and the Secretary of State is ugly and serves no one’s interests. The Finance Minister needs to step up and make an initial budgetary allocation to the scheme in the first instance – it would be a gross dereliction of duty if we reach March with no plan in place to make the scheme operable.
“But fundamentally, the British Government cannot absolve itself of responsibility to these victims. The legislation was passed in Westminster, the buck cannot now be passed to the Executive alone. The Northern Ireland Office and the Department of Finance need to sit down and reach an equitable resolution to this challenge. People are exhausted with the politics of brinkmanship, it’s time to start behaving like adults.
“I will be writing to the Secretary of State about this matter and the poor way his office has behaved. My colleagues will be raising these challenges with the joint First Ministers and at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster. We need to be in solution finding mode. The SDLP is committed to doing all that we can to support victims and survivors who deserve this payment.”