James Nesbitt has urged that those left severely injured in the Troubles in his native Northern Ireland should receive special pensions.
The actor was speaking as he attended the launch of a photographic exhibition featuring 10 men and women who were severely injured during the decades of violence.
Nesbitt, who is a patron of victim’s charity the WAVE Trauma Centre, added his voice to their campaign for a special pension.
Speaking at the exhibition at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Nesbitt said the severely injured deserve financial security to live the rest of their lives in dignity.
“When you look into the faces of those featured in these powerful images you don’t see people looking for sympathy let alone pity,” he said.
“They have ‘moved on’ but what they will not do is to move aside.
“All they want is a degree of financial security so that they can live the rest of their lives with as much independence and dignity as possible.
“I am fully behind them.”
Nesbitt said that while for many the Troubles are a memory, for the injured it remains the present.
“All their injuries are life-changing and permanent,” he said.
“Frankly they were not expected to live beyond a few years.
“But they have surpassed all expectations and survived the predicted prognosis of hard lives and early deaths.
“And the passage of time has compounded their problems and they suffer increasing physical distress, as a result of deteriorating health and chronic pain.”
Belfast man Paul Gallagher was just 21 in 1994 when Loyalist gunmen burst into his house and shot him six times.
Mr Gallagher had not been their planned target.
He now requires a wheelchair and said the injured were simply “left to get on with it”.
“We survived, just about, in many cases, but survive we did,” he said.
“Many were unaware of what had happened to them.
“One minute they were sipping coffee in a restaurant, the next, they were lying in a hospital bed, confused and frightened.
“We were left to get on with it.
“To begin the long and winding healing process, physically and emotionally.”
Mr Gallagher said many survivors felt forgotten, excluded and left behind by society.
“These images are also reminders that something needs to be done to help us continue on our life’s journey,” he said.
“That we were left behind by society, badly treated, left to struggle and many of us fear the present and the future.
“That is why we have been lobbying for a pension for the severely injured.
“Something must be done and must be done now. Before it is too late.”
Picture: James Nesbitt speaking at the launch a new photographic exhibition by the WAVE Trauma campaign group on victims of the troubles at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. (Niall Carson/PA Wire).