Northern Ireland

Executive Office ordered to pay pension court costs

Jennifer McNern (centre) outside Belfast High Court On Monday Image copyright Liam McBurney/PA
Image caption Two victims from the Troubles, Jennifer McNern (pictured) and Brian Turley, took The Executive Office to court

The Executive Office has been ordered to pay costs incurred by a legal challenge against the delays in introducing a Troubles pension scheme.

Last week, the High Court ruled the Office had acted unlawfully.

The scheme was approved by Westminster in January, but its administration had been delayed by a row over the definition of a victim.

Mr Justice McAlinden said his ruling on who should pay court costs was "appropriate in the circumstances".

The scheme is designed to make regular payments to people who were seriously injured in the Troubles.

Prior to the rulings, deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill had refused to designate a department to administer the scheme.

She said there were concerns that some republicans with convictions from the Troubles could be excluded from its criteria.

This delay prompted two victims, Jennifer McNern and Brian Turley, to take the Office to court.

Funding

On Monday, the department of justice was designated to take on the scheme, with Justice Minister Naomi Long warning the payments could total up to £800m.

She told BBC News NI it was not yet clear where the funding would come from, but said it was clear in her mind "where it should come from".

At the court hearing on Friday, it was noted that a department had now been designated and no further orders were required about the funding of the scheme.

Mr Justice McAlinden said any issue to do with funding "from here on in" would require a fresh application to the court.

He added that "bearing in mind the demands on funds" facing Stormont departments, he did not believe it was for the court "to delve further into those issues and to direct further in relation to specific funding".

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