Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (304)

Seán Ryan

Question:

445 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position with regard to the Northern Ireland conflict fund (remembrance fund) and commission in the context of a press release dated 16 June 2003. [25046/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

I appointed the five person commission to administer the remembrance fund on 29 October 2003. The commission is chaired by Mr. David Andrews, and the other members are Mr. Conor Brady, Ms Pat Hume, Mr. Paddy Mullarkey and Ms Caitríona Murphy. On 15 December 2003, the Government approved the scheme of acknowledgement, remembrance and assistance for victims in this jurisdiction of the conflict in Northern Ireland, subject to further discussion between the Minister and the Attorney General on the detail of the scheme. Following finalisation of the scheme, copies were placed in the Oireachtas Library in March 2004. The scheme sets out the functions of the remembrance fund and commission and the criteria under which the commission will make payments to victims from the fund. The criteria cover the types of payments set out in the press release of 16 June 2003.

The Government has approved the provision of €9 million to the scheme in the three-year lifetime of the fund. The scheme was advertised in national newspapers on 28 May of this year. A secretariat has been appointed to assist the commission in its activities, and it commenced operation in July of this year. To date, the commission has received more than 50 applications and has authorised payments to victims, the families of victims and victim support groups of almost €285,000. It has also been decided to make a donation of €1.25 million to the Northern Ireland memorial fund.

The commission is monitoring on a continuing basis the numbers of applications received so as to ensure all those who might be eligible for assistance are aware of the commission and the fund. Following publication of the scheme, representations were made to the Taoiseach and me by the Justice for the Forgotten victims support group expressing concern that the criteria in the scheme in respect of acknowledgement payments to the families of victims who were fatally injured might be too onerous. Following consideration of the representations, the Government approved on 5 October an amended scheme which addresses these concerns. Copies of the amended scheme have been placed in the Oireachtas Library.