By Paul Gallagher
One place where I have seen people ‘learning to live together’ has been in the Wave Injured Group. This self-help group, part of the Wave Trauma Centre, is made up of individuals who have a defining commonality; they have all been injured during the conflict. These individuals stem from diverse backgrounds, women, men, Catholic, Protestant, working class, middle class. Some carry physical wounds, some are psychologically injured.
However with all that has been inflicted upon these people they have learned to live together. They are survivors. They understand what happened here over the years. They grasp the context. Their injuries vary. Those who inflicted these injuries vary. Their injuries are with them every day. They live in pain. Pain concentrates the mind. It provides focus. We have learned from the pain. Pain is our teacher. For many there is no rhyme or reason as to why this happened to them. Many are philosophical about it. Others are angry. Nevertheless in my experience they are resolved to do all they can to prevent the conflict reoccurring. No more pain. They have also dedicated their time to ensure that society does all it can to help repair the damage done to people like themselves, not just their colleagues in the group but injured people everywhere.
The Injured Group have been lobbying our politicians for the past few years on the issue of a pension for people with serious injuries and for their carer’s. Many of these injured people have spent a lifetime on state benefits; the derisory pittance that was their compensation has evaporated. There were no disability discrimination safeguards in place during the 1970s, when most people were injured, so they became economically inactive; left on the scrapheap. They have surpassed all expectations and survived the predicted prognosis of hard lives and early deaths. They now face their later years with fear and trepidation; facing an autumn and winter of poverty and indignity. They have suffered enough.
We feel that we have convinced our politicians that this is something that they could and should deliver; they were unequivocal that this was a noble endeavour. We demonstrated that such pensions were the norm in many countries around the world where citizens have been injured by political conflict such as Spain and Italy. We were asked to provide evidence as to how such a pension would look. We did this. The Commission for Victims and Survivors has taken our research and added to it with the guidance of lawyers, actuaries and accountants.
We feel that now is the time to get this over the line. We need delivery now. This is a pension pot that will diminish over time as we die. Some of our colleagues may never see this pension. Others have already died waiting. Don’t delay or the cheques may as well be sent to Carnmoney cemetery.
One obstacle that has been put in front of us has been that of eligibility; who would get this pension and who would not? This is a question for our politicians to agree upon. They must agree and they must compromise. It should not be put upon victims like ourselves to define victimhood. The definition of a victim, although contested, is set in statute.
What I do know is that the people in the Wave Injured Group are eligible. Those who had their limbs ripped from their bodies by bombs are eligible. Those blinded and disfigured are eligible. Those left paralysed by burning lead are eligible.
It would add further hurt to these people if the circular arguments that pervade the discourse surrounding victimhood were to prevent or further delay provision of reparations. Our politicians need to agree upon this now. They need to take heed and learn from the people I know in the Wave Injured Group. If people like us can live together then anyone can live together.