Jennifer McNern, who lost both her legs in a bomb explosion, tells VIEW editor Brian Pelan that severely injured victims have been ignored for too long.
The sun is shining through the windows of Jennifer McNern’s kitchen at her home in Belfast as she takes me back to that awful day in 1972 when a no-warning bomb exploded in the Abercorn restaurant. Two people were killed and many others were injured.
Jennifer, now in her sixties, was 21 years of age when she lost her legs in the explosion in Belfast city centre. Her sister, Rosaleen, was also horrifically injured.
She is a strong supporter of the WAVE Trauma Centre’s campaign for a special pension fund for people severely injured in the Troubles.
Jennifer received compensation after the explosion but described it as inadequate. She believes that severely injured victims deserve a pension fund to be set up for them to help them cope with ongoing financial. physical and emotional needs,
I felt her deep frustration when she spoke about experiencing a wave of deep anger when she received a cheque for £50 from the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund in 2009.
“It was Christmas time and this envelope arrived through the door. There was a Christmas card in it and everybody had signed it. It was from the Memorial Fund and there was a cheque for £50 in it,” said Jennifer.
“I lost it. I absolutely lost it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry. I made a number of phone calls and insisted that someone should come and take the cheque out of my house.
“Eventually a man did arrive at my home. He said: ‘Jennifer, I’ll take it back. It’ll just go into the coffers though’.” He also added “that a lot of people would be happy to get a cheque for £50 at Christmas”. I said to him: “If you were someone who was injured in a bomb explosion and you had lost both your legs and you needed £50 at Christmas then there is something desperately wrong.”
Apart from going back to education for a while she has never worked since the explosion and tries to survive on her disability pension. She admitted that she had suffered financial pressures.
Getting involved with the WAVE Trauma Centre was a huge turning point for her in terms of combating depression and how she was feeling about herself..
“I remember feeling so elated after my first visit to WAVE. I felt as if I now had two homes. One where I could talk about what had happened to me and the other where I didn’t need to.
“At the moment the pension fund is pretty high on the political agenda but that could all fall apart again.
“We’ve had our downtimes when we wonder is it worth carrying on our fight but then you reboot and go on.”
My final question to Jennifer was did she feel optimistic that the fund would be eventually set up? “We’ll carry on until it is set up. It is something that should be done. The State should look after us.”
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