Woman who lost both legs challenges bomb compensation delays


A woman who lost both legs during a notorious Belfast bombing launches legal action later over compensation delays.

Jennifer McNern suffered the life-changing injuries during the 1972 attack on a packed Abercorn restaurant on a busy weekend shopping day.

No paramilitary organisation claimed responsibility but the IRA was blamed.

Rows over who should be eligible and who will fund it have thwarted speedy establishment of a pension scheme for those most badly hurt during the Troubles.

Ms McNern is taking a judicial review at Belfast’s High Court against Stormont’s Executive Office.

She said: “All we ever wanted was to be treated with respect and dignity and not be left as the part of the forgotten legacy of the Troubles.

“When the legislation was passed at Westminster we thought we had achieved that.

“But the refusal by the Executive Office to implement the legislation is devastating.”

There is a dispute between the Government and Stormont Executive over who should fund the payments.

The Government insists Stormont should pay but ministers in Belfast insist the Treasury should contribute since the scheme will be open to victims who live in Great Britain.

It should have opened to applications at the end of May and will pay out £2,000 to £10,000 a year depending on the severity of the injury.

Northern Ireland Troubles
Northern Ireland Troubles

The Abercorn bombing in the city centre killed two people and injured more than 130 in one of the most infamous episodes of the conflict.

Many victims lost limbs.

Ms McNern added: “It shows how little the Executive Office thinks of severely injured victims and survivors that they were not even going to let us know that the scheme was not going to be implemented.

“We were told nothing until days before we were due to submit applications.

“We feel like we are being treated with contempt.”

Troubles victims compensation scheme
Troubles victims compensation scheme

On Friday the Government published separate guidance that anyone convicted of causing serious harm during the Troubles should not be eligible for victims’ compensation payments.

Those with a recent terrorism conviction of any sort will also be unable to access the money, according to the guidance.

A political standoff has bedevilled the implementation of the long-delayed measure to support those physically or psychologically injured during the Troubles, many of whom lost the opportunity to work and build up pensions of their own.

Sinn Fein has refused to proceed by designating a Stormont department to administer it because it believes the Government’s approach could exclude thousands of injured from the republican community who were involved in the conflict.

The party reacted angrily to Friday’s publication, with veteran policing spokesman Gerry Kelly claiming the guidance was “discriminatory” and “rewarded” state forces.

DUP leader Arlene Foster welcomed the guidance, insisting it was right that “victim-makers” were not able to avail themselves of a victims’ pension.

The scheme automatically bars anyone who was injured in an act they were responsible for.