Northern Ireland: Victims say 'We're an embarrassment to politicians, but we demand action on the past'
Victims and bereaved family members will come together at Stormont today (Monday) to call on politicians to agree new mechanisms to investigate past human rights violations and abuses from Northern Ireland's conflict.
The victims, drawn from across the community and across decades of violence, will call on political representatives in Belfast and London to prioritise dealing with the past and put in place new effective measures to deliver truth and justice. The call comes as politicians from the five Northern Ireland Executive parties prepare to enter the crucial phase of the round-table talks chaired by Dr Richard Haass, which focus on issues including 'dealing with the past'.
Speaking in advance of the event, Michael Gallagher, of the Omagh Self-help and Support Group, whose son Aidan was killed in the Omagh bomb in 1998, said:
“Victims feel like they have become an unwelcome embarrassment to some politicians in Belfast, London and Dublin. I am here today at Stormont to let politicians know that we are not going away and that our call for truth and justice for what happened to our loved ones is not going away.
“There are thousands of other victims and bereaved family members across Northern Ireland who want to see ‘dealing with the past’ given a new, high priority by our political leaders. Haass presents an opportunity to make that new commitment, but it is crucial that London and Dublin come to the table too.”
Michael Gallagher, Omagh Self-help and Support Group
Danny Toland, whose father John Toland was shot dead by the UDA in Eglinton, Co Londonderry/Derry in 1976, said:
“The murder of my father was investigated by the Historical Enquiries Team, but we were left with more questions than answers, particularly around the extent of collusion which took place between the UDA and the security forces, which the HET could only say was ‘likely’.
"What is now needed is a new, more independent and effective means of investigating all past cases where there are outstanding questions.”
Alex Bunting, who was badly injured by an IRA booby-trap car bomb in Belfast in 1991, said:
“As victims, we find ourselves having to drive this process forward. No one wants to listen – especially within politics.
“The political will to grasp the nettle of the past has been missing. That now needs to change. The Haass Talks are the moment when that dynamic must be reversed - that is my message to politicians here today.”
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:
“These are the voices to which Richard Haass must listen; the bereaved fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children.
“They are pinning their hopes on these talks now, to deliver the truth and the answers that will allow them to turn the page on this painful chapter for all of Northern Ireland.
“Amnesty joins them in saying now is the time to deal with the past.”
Amnesty International recently published an 82-page report, ‘Northern Ireland: Time to Deal with the Past’, which calls on political leaders to establish a single overarching mechanism capable of comprehensively addressing the past, and to instigate specific independent inquiries into some of the worst atrocities.
Event: “Northern Ireland: Time to Deal with the Past – victims’ voices”
Monday 11 November, 12 noon, The Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings, Stormont