At last victim pensions after 24 years for those maimed in 1996 IRA Canary Wharf bombing following High Court ruling
PUBLISHED: 20:29 22 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:51 24 August 2020
Victims of the 1996 IRA terrorist bombing of Canary Wharf could soon get compensation at last after more than 20 years campaigning following a High Court ruling yesterday.
The fight for victim payments has been going on since the Docklands Victims Association was set up in 2000 for the families of the two men killed when the Midland Bank HQ was destroyed and those badly injured living on Millwall’s Barkantine housing estate close by.
Northern Ireland’s coalition executive office has been “acting unlawfully” in delaying a compensation scheme for all victims of the Troubles in Britain and Ireland from the late 1960s to the 1990s after payments had been approved by Westminster back in January, a judge has ruled.
“We’re overjoyed that a pension scheme may have finally materialised after years of campaigning,” Docklands association’s president Jonathan Ganesh told the East London Advertiser today.
“But several disabled victims who desperately needed this pension have since died. It hurts deeply that these poor people won’t benefit from this scheme that would have enhanced the quality of their lives.”
Jonathan was a hero Midland Bank security guard injured in the blast who helped others to safety before he had to be rescued from the rubble.
The coalition Northern Ireland Assembly’s executive office was “deliberately stymieing the payouts” to get the eligibility criteria changed, the High Court said.
Sinn Féin deputy first minister had refused to allow payments because the criteria potentially “discriminates against republicans with convictions from the Troubles”.
But a furious Docklands’ victims campaigner Jonathan Ganesh hit back: “It is morally wrong for Sinn Féin to oppose this pension scheme and not to comply with the Law.
“A number of victims have since taken their own lives over the years due to their horrific injuries, their mental health and the immense stress from the appalling treatment they received.”
The pension scheme should have started in May, but got caught in a stumbling block with convicted IRA terrorists also wanting pensions. New guidance rules out anyone convicted of causing serious harm during the Troubles, which Sinn Féin claimed was “discrimination”.
Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster, leader of its unionist majority, welcomed the judgement when she said on social media: “Now is time for Sinn Féin to prioritise innocent victims rather than bombers.”
That would mean innocent victims, including the 50 maimed or injured in the 1996 Docklands atrocity, could soon get pensions after more than two decades of disappointment.
They came close to a settlement five years ago, reported in the Advertiser, when a delegation met the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers at Westminster who promised back in 2015 to press to the justice secretary to “rectify this injustice”, but nothing ever came of it.
Gemma Berezag from the Barkantine Estate, whose husband Zaoui was left blind, paralysed, brained damaged and eventually lost a leg, demanded after that meeting with Theresa Villiers: “How could they consider giving pensions to the bad men who caused all the terrorism and not help those innocent victims who need help? Zaoui and others like him also need help so we can provide better care.”
Both Gemma and Zaoui have since died, without a chance of seeing a penny in victim compensation after 24 years.
The Docklands campaigners had also hoped to get victim compensation from Libyan funds in London that were frozen in 2011 after the fall of its dictator Colonel Gaddafi, who had supplied semtex to the IRA for its terrorist bombing.
But the government refused to budge, claiming the assets belonged “to the people of Libya” — even though it emerged in Parliament that the Exchequer had been syphoning off revenue for years from interest payments earned by the Gaddafi hoard.
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