I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 82 together.
I understand that these Questions refer to victims of violence during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The Government's position is that there is no hierarchy of victims, whether killed or injured during the conflict in Northern Ireland by the actions of paramilitaries or by state forces. This is also the official position of the British Government and is provided for in UK statute.
The Programme for a Partnership Government commits to building on the progress made to establish the comprehensive institutional framework for dealing with the past that is provided for under the 2014 Stormont House Agreement, maintaining the needs of the victims and survivors at the core of our approach.
I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland to seek the full implementation of the comprehensive legacy framework of the Stormont House Agreement. This Agreement provides for the establishment of a number of legacy institutions, including the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval and Oral History Archive, which would be accessible to people in Northern Ireland, in this jurisdiction, and in Britain.
The Stormont House Agreement also includes provisions in respect of services for victims in Northern Ireland which are for implementation by the Executive. The Agreement in addition expressly affirms that the needs of victims who do not live in Northern Ireland should be recognised.
Consistent with this, the Programme for Government commits to continuing support for victims’ groups and to promote reconciliation among communities on both sides of the border, which were particularly affected by the Troubles, through the Government’s Reconciliation Fund and through Ministerial engagement with representatives of different community traditions.
The Reconciliation Fund is open to applications from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community groups, and voluntary organisations, to support reconciliation and to create better understanding between people and traditions on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain. Groups who work with and support victims of the Troubles have made successful applications for support under the Reconciliation Fund. A list of grants awarded is published on my Department’s website after each funding round. Reflecting our ongoing deep commitment to supporting the work of reconciliation on this island, the Government has provided for a substantial increase of €1m for the Reconciliation Fund, bringing the total budget to €3.7m with effect from January 2019.
The Government also contributes significantly to the EU PEACE IV programme (2014 - 2020), and which includes a specific action on Victims and Survivors. This action is delivered by the Victims and Survivors Service in Northern Ireland which provides funding supports to organisations to employ Health and Wellbeing Case Managers, Health and Wellbeing Caseworkers, Advocacy Case Managers and Advocacy Caseworkers for victims and survivors irrespective of their place of residence.
A Remembrance Commission was established in 2003 and operated a Scheme of Acknowledgement, Remembrance and Assistance for Victims of the Troubles in this jurisdiction. The Commission's term of appointment formally came to an end on 31 October 2008 and the Commission disbursed over €6.5m to victims and their families in this time. On the conclusion of the Commission's term of appointment, the then Minister for Justice and Equality made special arrangements to ensure that victims resident in the jurisdiction who require ongoing medical treatment for injuries sustained in bombings and other incidents arising from the Troubles may have these costs reimbursed through the Victims of Crime Office of the Department of Justice and Equality.
Access to medical services in this jurisdiction, including access to counselling, is a matter for the HSE and my colleague, the Minister for Health. I have not had specific discussions with the Minister in this regard; however, I am ready to do so if there are specific suggestions to consider.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have valued the opportunity to meet with victims’ families and with survivors of Troubles-related attacks, North and South on the island of Ireland and in Britain, to hear their views, experiences and concerns. As the Government continues work to implement the legacy framework of the Stormont House Agreement, we will maintain our ongoing engagement with victims groups, to take account of their views and maintain their needs at the core of our approach.