Troubles’ widows call for bereavement recognition payments

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Women left widowed due to Northern Ireland’s troubled past have urged Stormont to reopen a compensation scheme for the bereaved.

A support for the bereaved scheme closed to new applications in March 2017.

It included an annual payment made to a spouse or partner of someone who was killed, in recognition of their loss.

Victims’ group SEFF is calling for the new victims strategy being developed by the Executive Office to include “sustainable support for the bereaved”.

They described the cutting off of the previous fund for new applicants as “morally indefensible”, adding those bereaved “remain bereaved and forever will be”.

Two two women, the widow of a soldier killed in the Hyde Park bomb and the widow of a murdered Garda sergeant, are among those who are backing the call.

Jeffrey Young (Family handout/PA)

She described feeling stigmatised as she was left alone to raise the couple’s four-year-old and one-year-old daughters.

“People suffered the trauma, and then the widows had their children to rear,” she told the PA news agency.

“It was very, very hard. I think we were given £1,000 and there were fundraisers for my girls, but I didn’t have much help to raise them.

“My daughter suffers from PTSD, we were having trouble getting her help and if it wasn’t for when I went over to Northern Ireland and SEFF helped me, I can’t thank them enough.

“It’s important that things are sorted out so people have help.

“When I was rearing the girls, it felt like a stigma, it wasn’t very nice at all. I had to have a few jobs to make sure I could give them all I wanted them to have. It was hard work.

John Downey court case
Sarah-Jane Young, centre, with her mother Judith (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Bernie Morrissey from Drogheda, Co Louth, the widow of Garda Sergeant Patrick Morrissey, who was shot dead by the INLA during a robbery in 1985, echoed her call.

Sgt Morrissey was killed as he attempted to intervene in the robbery of £25,000 from the Labour Exchange in Ardee on June 27, 1985.

Their four children were aged between 13 and 20 at the time.

“The 1980s was a gloomy time in Ireland, other tragedies took over and we kind of faded into the background because every week there was some other atrocity, that was how it was,” Mrs Morrissey said, adding she wants to speak out on behalf of others in her position.

“Nothing ever changes the past but making sure that people like my husband are never forgotten, that’s very important to me,” she said.

“I think to be forgotten is the greatest hurt of all – that it was just something that happened in the past. I think recognition is very important from that point of view.

“In terms of fair play, everybody is entitled to the same treatment.

Garda Sergeant Patrick Morrissey
Garda Sergeant Patrick Morrissey who was killed by the INLA in 1985 (Family handout/PA)

“It is important that these people are never forgotten.”

Mrs Morrissey sought and paid for counselling in the years after her husband’s murder.

She went on to help set up a support group for the families of other members of the Garda who are bereaved.

The recent trial of Aaron Brady for the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe brought back some of her family’s trauma, she said.

“The outcome of that was very important to us because we relive the past.

“It was another cold, callous, brutal killing. The only difference was we were fortunate enough that the trial took place within a year – that family had to wait seven years.

“I attended the court as well, because I wasn’t there when Paddy died. I had to relive what it must have been like otherwise I wouldn’t have known fully.

“In court every single item and step is discussed in detail. It is harrowing and it is horrific but it gives one a chance to relive that, and I just felt I had to be there to know what it was like.

“The upsetting thing about these things is that there is no remorse shown by the perpetrators. That’s very hard.”

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