NI victims of the contaminated blood scandal have welcomed an increase in financial support to them.
Victims in Northern Ireland have previously received less than those in England, Scotland and Wales.
At the weekend Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed annual payments would now range from £18,745 to just under £45,000.
This would bring them in line with payments made in England, which were significantly increased in April 2019.
Nigel Hamilton, from Haemophilia NI, discovered he had contracted hepatitis C after an eye operation when he was a teenager.
He subsequently had a liver transplant after developing cancer.
Mr Hamilton said that before the weekend he was entitled to just over £18,000 a year, but that has now gone up to over £28,500.
He said the money would give people the opportunity “to live our lives with a certain degree of financial security”.
“We’re encouraged by what has happened, it’s taken a little bit longer than we would have liked, but we respect that it is there and we respect that the minister is a man of his word,” he said.
“The logjam has moved and it’s moved in the right direction.
“It’s about the money, because we want what we’re told we’re worth, but it’s also about the principle.”
In January and March of this year, Mr Swann announced payments to Northern Ireland victims of the scheme would match those in England for the 2019/2020 period – and this now being made permanent.
The scandal resulted in people who had haemophilia being treated with blood infected with hepatitis C or HIV in the 1970s and 1980s.
Last year, the contaminated blood inquiry heard harrowing stories from people across the UK about how lives had been destroyed by infected blood.
About 5,000 people, including 99 from Northern Ireland, were infected by what has been called “the worst scandal in the history of the NHS”.
Victims met with the health minister earlier this year to urge him to address the disparity in payments.
Northern Ireland ‘Good news for everyone’
Mr Hamilton said the increased payment took him closer to what he was earning when he had to stop work.
“The money is good news for everyone, specifically the victims who really need the money,” he said.
“I am very grateful and the money will be a big help to me. I will now be able to finish paying my mortgage off if I look after the money I’m getting over the next two to three years.”
Northern Ireland ‘Massive help’
Danielle McMullan’s 62 year old mother Marie contracted hepatitis after receiving contaminated blood during labour.
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“The money is obviously a massive help. My dad had to retire early from a good paying job to be able to care for my mum,” Ms McMullan said.
However, she added it was about more than just the money
“They could give all the money in the world it’s still not going to give any of these people their health back again, it’s not going to give them the life they lost out on and it’s not going to bring back the people who unfortunately have passed away because of this,” she said.
“It’s great news to finally get what we were told and what we were promised and to finally see something being done.
“But this is something that should have been done months ago and yet we have sat for months with no communication from anyone at all.”
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