'Don't exclude us,' Omagh bomb victim's family tells NIO

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Omagh bombImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, died in the bomb

A woman whose brother was killed in the Omagh bomb has called on the Northern Ireland Secretary to urgently rethink the strategy on Troubles pensions.

Claire Monteith's brother, Alan Radford, was one of 29 people killed in the Real IRA bomb in August 1998.

It happened months after Northern Ireland voted to accept the Good Friday Agreement.

But a new government document suggests the Omagh victims might not be eligible for a victims' pension.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) published a consultation which proposes payment levels for victims injured "through no fault of their own".

However, the document suggests restricting the scope for claims from 1966 to April 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

The Omagh bomb exploded four months later.

The 29 victims included nine children, a woman pregnant with twins and three generations of one family.

Mrs Monteith lost her 16-year-old brother. Her mother was also seriously injured.

"We remain physically and emotionally scarred. It affects every part of daily life," she said.

"We are just a few among so many. Yet our trauma is so callously facing exclusion from the criteria," she added.

She said families like hers who suffered in Omagh feel that they are of less importance because they have been excluded.

She urged Julian Smith to look again at the time frame for eligibility that suggests those affected by Omagh would be excluded.

Image source, Radford family
Image caption,
Alan Radford was helping his mother do the weekly shop when the bomb exploded

In its consultation the NIO says that the timeframe - from 1966 to the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998 - may be the basis for the scheme.

But it adds: "The time period that it would cover is clearly an issue that will need to be considered very carefully."

'Grossly insensitive'

A NIO spokeswoman said: "The Government is very sensitive to the fact that terrible atrocities including the Omagh bomb took place outside what is commonly considered to be the Troubles period. That is why we are consulting on this issue and want to hear and consider all views.

Image caption,
Claire Monteith's brother, Alan Radford, was one of 29 people killed in the Real IRA bomb in August 1998

"We have included a specific question within the consultation on date parameters of the scheme and there is no predetermined timescale for the scheme.

"Any decisions about timescale will be taken after the consultation has been completed and the responses analysed."

Mrs Monteith said excluding the Omagh victims would be "not only unjust but grossly insensitive".

"Every single step for victims has been a fight - to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be understood. We are not giving up now," she added.

"On behalf of all who face falling outside the defined timeframe, I am calling on the secretary of state to address this bitter, hurtful issue as a matter of urgency."