A proposed British government plan to compensate the families of those killed in the Northern Ireland Troubles - including the families of paramilitary members - has unleashed a torrent of anger and disgust. The plan was put forth by Lord Robin Eames and Denis Bradley, a former Catholic priest, at the behest of the British government 18 months ago. They have proposed a one-time government payout of £12,000 for every family who lost a member in the 30 years of violence in which more than 3,600 people were killed. Northern Ireland's largest Unionist political party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), rejected the proposed payments, saying that they would betray the innocent victims of terrorist violence. Northern First Minister Peter Robinson led the charge against the Eames/Bradley proposal, which is to be formally unveiled this week. "There can be no equivalence between those who went out with the clear intention of murdering and those men and women who were slaughtered as they went about their daily business," said Robinson. Jeffrey Donaldson, a DUP minister, told the power-sharing government at Stormont, "To suggest that a policeman or soldier is to be equated with terrorists is entirely unjustified and will send out the wrong message to others. It is the very antithesis of justice and with all due respect the authors of this report have got this entirely wrong." Former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble denounced the proposal as offensive to the families of everyone killed in the Northern Ireland Troubles. "What the victims of the Troubles want is, first of all, to be remembered and, secondly, they want to feel that what they suffered was not in vain - that their sacrifice helped to build a better, safer, more democratic future for the people of Northern Ireland. To come forward first with money is offensive," he said. Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by the Ulster Volunteer Force, described the proposed payment as "disgusting blood money - I would not touch it with a bargepole. This is the equivalent of the U.S. government setting up a fund for the victims of the 9/11 and making sure that the families of the hijackers got compensation as well." The Consultative Group on the Past, the government group behind the proposal, has so far they have not commented on its contents. Unionists were concerned that a blanket compensation scheme would put paramilitaries who fought British rule in Northern Ireland on a par with civilian victims, police officers or British soldiers. Nationalists said they suspected that the British government was simply trying to pay off the victims of violence instead of giving a full account of its role in the conflict. "There are many victims' organizations that fear that these proposals will allow the British state to continue its policy of cover up and concealment," said Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein. Under the proposed plan, all current inquiries into paramilitary activity during the troubles would conclude, and there would be no future inquiries. If accepted by the British and Irish governments, the plan would undermine the campaign by the Omagh families for a cross-Border tribunal of inquiry into the 1998 Real IRA bombing. Michael Gallagher of the Omagh Support and Self-Help Group told the press that he was dismayed by the suggestion that there would be no further public inquiries, as he believed such an inquiry represented the only means to establish all the circumstances surrounding the Omagh bomb.
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