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MOD pays over £12.5 million in Northern Ireland legacy claims in last five years

The British Ministry of Defence (MOD) has paid out a cumulative total of £12,576,458.50 in compensation to 82 claimants over the past five years for Northern Ireland legacy claims, according to a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) disclosure.

The information was revealed in a response to an FOI request made by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), which sought details of all compensation payments made by the MOD to civilians globally from 2019 to 2023. The MOD’s response provides a detailed breakdown of payments specifically related to Northern Ireland legacy claims.

Breakdown of Compensation Payments

The compensation payments were distributed across five fiscal years as follows:

  • FY 2019/20: 9 claimants received £1,391,121.50
  • FY 2020/21: 14 claimants received £665,512.00
  • FY 2021/22: 30 claimants received £2,664,712.00
  • FY 2022/23: 18 claimants received £3,896,281.00
  • FY 2023/24: 11 claimants received £3,958,832.00

Historical Context

The payments relate to claims from civilians affected by military operations during the Northern Ireland conflict, commonly referred to as “The Troubles.” This period of conflict, spanning from the late 1960s to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, involved violent confrontations between nationalists/republicans, loyalists/unionists, and British security forces.

The legacy of The Troubles has left a complex and painful history, with many individuals seeking redress for losses and injustices endured during the conflict. The Good Friday Agreement, a pivotal peace accord, aimed to bring an end to decades of violence and laid the groundwork for addressing past grievances. However, the path to reconciliation has been fraught with challenges, including the need for compensatory justice for those affected by the conflict.

The conflict has its roots in the division of Ireland in 1921 into the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland and Protestant-majority Northern Ireland, which remained part of the United Kingdom. Sectarian tensions were exacerbated by discrimination against the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, leading to civil rights protests inspired by the African American movement in the 1960s. These protests often ended in violent confrontations, prompting the Northern Irish government to request British military support.

Operation Banner, the British military’s response, initially aimed to separate the warring factions but gradually involved more aggressive measures, such as house searches, internment without trial, and increased surveillance. The conflict saw brutal tactics from both Nationalist and Loyalist paramilitaries, with high-profile incidents like the assassination of Lord Mountbatten by the IRA and various bombings and shootings. British forces adapted by forming intelligence units and conducting covert operations, which were sometimes marred by allegations of collusion and civilian casualties.

Over the course of the conflict, 188 civilians were killed by the British military, most of whom were Catholic, with many deaths resulting from street disturbances, mistaken identities, or rubber bullets. Notable incidents include the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 and Bloody Sunday in 1972, where unarmed civilians were killed by British forces. Despite the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and the official end of Operation Banner in 2007, British forces continued to assist in surveillance operations against dissident groups, highlighting the prolonged and complex nature of military involvement in Northern Ireland.

Significant Financial Commitment

The cumulative total of £12,576,458.50 paid out to 82 claimants underscores the MOD’s commitment to addressing historical grievances related to military operations in Northern Ireland. These payments reflect ongoing efforts to provide redress for individuals affected by past actions and are part of the broader reconciliation process that has continued since the Good Friday Agreement.

Annual Trends

  • 2019/20: The MOD paid out £1,391,121.50 to 9 claimants, marking the beginning of the compensation efforts within the provided data period.
  • 2020/21: Despite an increase in the number of claimants to 14, the total compensation amount decreased to £665,512.00.
  • 2021/22: A notable increase in both the number of claimants (30) and the total compensation amount (£2,664,712.00) was observed, suggesting the settlement of larger or more severe claims.
  • 2022/23: The compensation amount nearly doubled from the previous year, reaching £3,896,281.00 for 18 claimants.
  • 2023/24: The trend of high compensation amounts continued, with £3,958,832.00 paid out to 11 claimants.

Legal and Data Protection Constraints

The MOD noted several legal constraints in their response:

  • Section 40(2) of the FOIA was applied to protect personal information, preventing the disclosure of details that could identify individual claimants.
  • Confidentiality agreements related to specific litigation cases in Iraq and Afghanistan prevented the disclosure of detailed information for those regions.

Conclusion

The significant financial outlay by the MOD highlights the ongoing process of reconciliation and compensation for historical grievances in Northern Ireland. With a total of 82 claimants receiving over £12.5 million, these payments reflect the MOD’s efforts to provide justice and closure for past military actions.

Dr. Iain Overton, Executive Director of AOAV, said of the FOI reply: “These figures highlight the ongoing financial and moral responsibility of the Ministry of Defence to address the grievances of those affected by historical military operations. The cumulative total of over £12.5 million in compensation underscores the profound impact that past actions have had on civilians. This significant financial commitment is a crucial step towards reconciliation and justice for those who have endured long-standing hardships as a result of the Northern Ireland conflict.”