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Northern Ireland court holds executive liable for funding pension of Troubles victims

Northern Ireland court holds executive liable for funding pension of Troubles victims

13.02.2021 | Vishwanath Petkar | Paris II Panthéon-Assas U., MU FEBRUARY 12, 2021 10:11:23 AM | 807

The Northern Ireland Court of Appeals on Tuesday held that Northern Ireland’s Executive Office was “under a legal duty to fund a pension scheme for people badly injured in The Troubles.”

The court ruled that under the Victims’ Payments Regulations 2020, the NI Executive Office is required to fund payments and lump sums to ensure that the board can make the necessary payments to Troubles victims. Prior to the decision, there had been an ongoing dispute between the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK government’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on who would be responsible for funding payments made under the regulations.

The regulations come as a result of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 of the UK Parliament, which had imposed a duty upon the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to “establish a scheme under the law of Northern Ireland which provides for one or more payments to be made to, or in respect of, a person who has sustained an injury as a result of a Troubles-related incident.”

In considering the liability of the Executive Office, the court considered the intent of the legislators of the 2020 Regulation when it held that:

In our view the statutory purpose set out in section 10 of the 2019 Act and the internal coherence of the 2020 Regulations imposing an obligation on the Board to effect payments as soon as reasonably practicable both lead to the imposition of a legal duty on the Executive Office to fund victims’ payments and lump sums having carried out the accounting exercises appropriate to the expenditure of public money.

The ruling also adds onto a previous decision of the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland, where Justice McAlinden had found that the Executive Office acted unlawfully in deliberately refusing to designate a Northern Ireland Department to enable the scheme to progress.

While the court held that the Executive Office would be responsible for funding the pension funds, it has not expressed any view in regards to the source of funding for the pension scheme. The court further adjourned the appeal for four weeks to allow the NI Executive Office and the UK government to negotiate a solution in relation to the funding of the pension scheme, failing which the case would be relisted to the court with the North Ireland Department of Finance as an additional party.

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