Response to Barry McElduff’s Resignation – IVU

Kenny Donaldson, Spokesman for Innocent Victims United stated: “Ultimately the right decision has been taken that Barry McElduff would resign, it is regrettable that it took 10 days for this to happen and for the Kingsmills families to have to go through what they have gone through. Painful sores have been re-opened and exposed “.

“Sinn Fein have issued statements in recent days including through Mr McElduff which on the face of it, represents new language in respect of the Kingsmills atrocity. Words are helpful but critically people (particularly victims of terrorism) will judge the Party and Republican Movement through their actions”.

“The Provisional Movement have many more steps to take in respect of Kingsmills but in all cases where the Provisional IRA harmed the community and individuals, Protestant, Roman Catholic and Dissenter”.

“We call in unison with the families for The Provisional Movement to once and for all acknowledge that Kingsmills was a sanctioned attack committed by PIRA members, there is a need for an apology for the damage caused to families and individuals, both through the act of terror itself but also in the subsequent 42 years where the Republican Movement, its’ personnel and supporters have continued to shield the Truth from those left devastated”.

Mr Donaldson added: “Good can yet come from the last fortnight, we repeat our call for a formal acknowledgement from the Provisional Movement and all terrorist organisations and also the two Nation States – UK and Republic of Ireland. The thrust of the acknowledgement would be as follows; ‘We accept that no grievance, enmity or political objective justified the use of criminal violence in what became known as; The Northern Ireland Troubles”.

“If this foundation stone was in place then there is the potential to meaningfully deal with the legacy of the past as well as smash the justification for future violence. Let’s be clear violence and civil strife stymied this place and its’ people for generations, isn’t it time that people were given something better?” concluded Mr Donaldson.

The ‘Past’ cannot be excused – IVU

When Shirley McMichael was appointed to the Northern Ireland Victims Forum earlier this year we were almost the lone voice in questioning that appointment. We had previously also questioned the appointment of PROVO terrorists and/or members of their families.

After reading the interview given by Mrs McMichael to the News Letter last week which focused on the 30th Anniversary since her husband John was murdered we feel vindicated in the stance we took.

Firstly it is important on a human level that we recognise that the McMichael family will grieve the loss of the late John McMichael and we have no doubt that this will have come into sharpe focus as a substantive anniversary is reached.

However we cannot allow the contents of that interview to go unchecked. The theme which ran through Mrs McMichael’s contribution was that of, promoting her late husband’s ‘political’ efforts post his involvement in terrorism as a UDA ‘Brigadier’ whilst skirting over the violent aspects of that organisation and her husband’s close quarters role.

When asked about the many innocent Roman Catholics the UDA murdered, she stated: “It would have been wonderful if there had been a better way. I was a supporter of the civil rights movement but when the IRA violence began it coloured everyone’s judgment. “There could have been a better way. I have talked to the victims of loyalist paramilitaries. My heart goes out to them.”

There was a better way and that was the way which the overwhelming majority of Northern Ireland’s population took, the path of democracy, non-violence and respect for the sanctity of human life.

Mrs McMichael went on to say that she feels “shunned by big house unionists” and “much more at home with republicans,” this statement needs interrogation.

Our organisation is not representative of ‘big house unionism’ but rather is comprised of 11,500 individuals who come from unionist, nationalist and non-aligned backgrounds, Protestant, Roman Catholic and Dissenter and across the class divide.

The commonality these individuals share is an abhorrence and opposition to terrorism and criminal violence, such actions cannot and should not be explained or excused as an inevitable consequence of perceived or indeed real grievances experienced within the Society by any grouping of people.

Many UDA, UVF, IRA and INLA terrorists and/or their families do feel able to be “comfortable with one another” now and why? Because they have convinced themselves that they were fighting a ‘just War,’ that was of neither of their makings. To some degree their warped narratives are dependent on the other’s.

Let’s be clear, in his latter years John McMichael appears to have embarked on a different journey post the violent past from which he came. Is that to be acknowledged? Yes, but more so must those whom the organisation he was a ‘Brigadier’ (terrorist godfather to most of the rest of us) harmed – the very many innocents often murdered because of raw and ugly sectarianism.

Mrs McMichael needs to step beyond solely defending her husband’s legacy to genuinely encouraging those from loyalist terrorist backgrounds to account for their crimes, to express remorse, to repent and to then meaningfully restitute for what they have taken out of this Society.

And this is the commonality shared with republicanism, for they must travel that same journey.

The continued failure to do so means that short of being part of the solution, such mindsets remain an intrinsic part of the problem.

Call for equality around access to justice – IVU

Responding to comments made by Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill that Stormont could be reinstated,
Kenny Donaldson, Spokesman for Innocent Victims United stated: “Funding for Legacy Inquests must not be freed up unless and until there are structures established which meaningfully address the access to justice deficit experienced by victims of terrorism”.
“There has been a dangerous piecemeal approach taken concerning investigation of legacy issues, the Coronial Inquest system is part of that problem and mist not be resourced in isolation of other justice pursuit mechanisms being introduced”.
“The vast majority of cases within the coronial inquest queue are cases against the State, whether terrorists killed whilst they were on ‘active service’ or cases where collusion and/or criminal actions are alleged”.
“We desire justice, truth and accountability for all innocents, irrespective of who it was that harmed them – republican or loyalist terrorists or individual members of the security forces. However what we will not tolerate is the creation of a SF/PIRA dominated narrative which seeks to diminish the actions and consequences of terrorism yet denigrate security forces as collectives”.
“The statistics are there to be seen where responsibility lies for ‘Troubles’ related deaths – 90% terrorist and 10% attributable to the State with a much smaller sub-section being criminal-based murder or unlawful killing,” concluded Mr Donaldson.

Call for equality around access to justice

Responding to comments made by Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill that Stormont could be reinstated,  Kenny Donaldson, Spokesman for Innocent Victims United stated: “Funding for Legacy Inquests must not be freed up unless and until there are structures established which meaningfully address the access to justice deficit experienced by victims of terrorism”.

“There has been a dangerous piecemeal approach taken concerning investigation of legacy issues, the Coronial Inquest system is part of that problem and mist not be resourced in isolation of other justice pursuit mechanisms being introduced”.

“The vast majority of cases within the coronial inquest queue are cases against the State, whether terrorists killed whilst they were on ‘active service’ or cases where collusion and/or criminal actions are alleged”.

“We desire justice, truth and accountability for all innocents, irrespective of who it was that harmed them – republican or loyalist terrorists or individual members of the security forces. However what we will not tolerate is the creation of a SF/PIRA dominated narrative which seeks to diminish the actions and consequences of terrorism yet denigrate security forces as collectives”.

“The statistics are there to be seen where responsibility lies for ‘Troubles’ related deaths – 90% terrorist and 10% attributable to the State with a much smaller sub-section being criminal-based murder or unlawful killing,” concluded Mr Donaldson.

16/05/2017 – Defence Committee’s Report is ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations

Regarding the following article.

Kenny Donaldson, Spokesman for Innocent Victims United stated: “The Report is ambiguous to say the least, the languages used are open to multiple interpretations. IVU has a clear stance on terrorism and criminal violence – where there can be proven to be a premeditated intent to take human life (minus terrorists being killed whilst in the midst of an offensive action) all such crimes must be treated consistently”.

“The Defence committee‘s report concludes, “It is clear from the experience of these legacy investigations that, unless a decision is taken to draw a line under all Troubles-related cases, without exception, they will continue to grind on for many years to come – up to half-a-century after the incidents concerned.”

“This is being sold as merely a statement of fact but many are interpreting this paragraph in conjunction with a further paragraph calling for truth recovery mechanisms to be established – that this is the general direction of travel being proposed – a movement away from the prospect of any prosecutions being pursued”.
“The Defence Committee claim to stop short of recommending a Statute of Limitation for all ‘Troubles related crimes’ (inclusive of those crimes perpetrated by terrorists) They do so citing the law and their lack of knowledge as to whether or not the Statute of Limitations could be furthered in respect of the military minus other ‘Troubles related’ cases. This position is dangerous and could effectively pave the way to an overt Amnesty, in many ways we have been subject to a covert Amnesty through various attempts ‘bastardise’ the Criminal Justice system, early prisoner releases, OTR Assurance letters, Royal Prerogatives of Mercy etc”.
“It is clear that there are many within the ‘Establishment’ who favour an out and out Amnesty, this is not acceptable to the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism and ‘other Troubles related criminal violence.’

And then following additional comments made by the Chairman of the Defence Committee.
Mr Donaldson added: “Mr Lewis has in many ways done a service in saying what he has said because the covert language in the report has now become the overt spoken language”

Northern Ireland had its’ own Texas Church massacre

Innocent Victims United, an umbrella organisation for 23 groups with combined membership of over 11,500 victims and survivors (with members from across Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and Mainland Europe) has issued a statement in which it expressed its’ solidarity with the victims of the Texas Church massacre – where 26 innocents perished at the hands of a lone gunman aged between 5 and 72 years.
In a statement Kenny Donaldson of IVU stated: “IVU’s thoughts and prayers are with the community of First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs in Texas, and particularly the families of the 26 innocents who were murdered and all others who were injured as a result of the attack. Rightly the World has expressed its’ shock and revulsion at what has happened. This was a brutal attack upon a group of defenceless God fearing and God loving people”.
“In Northern Ireland there is special significance because in this place we had our own South Carolina massacre. On 20th November 1983 INLA terrorists attacked a church service at Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church near Darkley in the heart of South Armagh. At the time there were about sixty people inside the small wooden building. Three members of the church were shot dead as they stood outside the entrance; they were Protestant civilians Harold Brown (59), David Wilson (44) and Victor Cunningham (39) – their crime was being Christian and Protestant”.
“Seven others were injured in the premeditated, sectarian attack. The congregation were singing the hymn; ‘Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb,’ as terrorists sprayed gunfire. The World should continue to feel revulsion at what happened in Darkley which was a horrific crime against a Christian and Peace loving Church community”.
“The events in Sutherland Springs, Texas will be weighing on the hearts and minds of those caught up in Darkley and their surviving families, our prayers are also with those so affected,” concluded Mr Donaldson.

15/09/2017 – Totally inappropriate to leagalise RHC

Kenny Donaldson, Spokesman for Innocent Victims United stated: “As a group which represents innocent victims and survivors of terrorism and ‘other Troubles related criminal violence’ our first concern is with the innocents and their families whose lives were stolen and/or damaged as a result of the terrorist and criminal actions of the RHC”.

“There are sentiments within the statement which are to be welcomed however the core request to have the organisation de-proscribed by the Government is not appropriate. The Red Hand Commando complete with the UVF carried out murder and other acts of terrorism and criminality within this Society, they did so upon their neighbours and their motivation was certainly never for God and we question what benefit if ever had to Ulster either”.

“For God and Ulster” is the mantra which belongs to the border people of this land, those who refused to bring to their neighbour’s door that which had been brought to theirs’, it is not the property of a terrorist organisation who now seek political absolution for their crimes”.

“In previous political agreements, the main proscribed organisations committed to disappearing, of going out of business and of ceasing all forms of terror and criminality, this is what they must do and their personnel must continue (or begin in some cases) the journey of restitution, doing what they can to put back into this Society. We do not believe that the terror names IRA, UVF/RHC, INLA, UDA etc should ever become legalised, they must be remembered in history for what they were – organisations of oppression with ideologies which encouraged and indeed demanded one neighbour to murder another”.

01/09/2017 – We commend Syrian Civil Defence (The White Helmets)

Kenny Donaldson, Spokesman for Innocent Victims United stated: “Right has prevailed, our campaign in collaboration with individual innocent victims and survivors of terrorism has prevailed. To all those innocent victims and survivors of terrorism who spoke out and relayed their deep concerns when Martin McGuinness was first shortlisted for the Award, we commend you”.
“Let’s be clear; the winners of the Award The Syrian Defence (White Helmets) exist to save and preserve life, Martin McGuinness commanded a terrorist organisation that stole the lives of its’ neighbours Protestant, Roman Catholic and Dissenter”.
“And throughout his ‘political’ contribution in Sinn Fein  (including the latter period of his life when he was Deputy First Minister) Martin McGuinness never publicly acknowledged the illegitimacy and wrong of that terrorist campaign, rather he and his colleagues continued to engage in terrorism idolatry”.
“Irrespective of the grievances (real or perceived) felt by Martin McGuinness or others within this Society, there was never justification for the use of terrorism or criminal violence in the pursuance of or defence of a political objective”.
“We at IVU salute the genuine Peace efforts of the Syrian Civil Defence (White Helmets) they are worthy winners,” concluded Mr Donaldson.
See previous coverage on the issue:

09/09/2017 – Tom Oliver’s murder does matter

Kenny Donaldson, Spokesman for Innocent Victims United stated: “Gerry Adams has once again demonstrated his blatant disregard for the rule of law. To suggest that the pursuance of those who murdered Tom Oliver would be “totally and absolutely counterproductive” intimates that perhaps Mr Adams is in possession of knowledge as to who his murderers are”.

“Is it once again a case Mr Adams of protecting the firm at all costs? Does the ‘ourselves alone’ mantra forever prevail? That the PROVOS alone are entitled to be beyond reproach and accountability for their criminal actions? That you and colleagues are content enough for non PROVO Republicans to be pursued and prosecuted (such as Gerry McGeough and Seamus Kearney) and those bad Brits and Loyalists but not your ‘soldiers?’

“We don’t live in the world of the PROVO green book and constitution, Mr Adams and his Deputies and MLA’s in Northern Ireland have committed themselves in words to the legitimate law of both jurisdictions, actions must now follow and Mr Adams must begin by apologising for his latest callous remarks to a family robbed of their loved one. He must then commit unequivocally to provide assitance to the reopened case”.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Oliver family at this time and all are innocents still denied Justice, Truth and Accountability,” concluded Mr Donaldson.

29/08/2017 – Not my role to adjudicate but to represent victims

Your (the Belfast Telegraph) columnist Ruth Dudley Edwards, of whom I have huge admiration for down the years as a writer challenged me in her Opinion column published in the Monday 28th August 2017 Edition to acknowledge that “Sean O’Callaghan’s remorse was utterly genuine and that he deserves to be remembered in charity and forgiveness”.

First of all I would like to acknowledge that Ruth as a personal friend of Sean O’Callaghan will feel that she had a better insight into the man than most of the rest of us and I am sorry for the sense of loss that she will be feeling at this time.

Ruth Dudley Edwards has stated that I doubt Sean O’Callaghan’s remorse, that is not the case as I was not giving my own personal opinion in the initial comments issued. But for what it’s worth my personal view (not judgement) on Sean O’Callaghan is that I acknowledge that he provided support to a number of families who are seeking answers into events which led to the murder of their loved ones and I also acknowledge that in going back into the heart of the Provisional IRA and reporting to the Republic of Ireland State that he was risking his own life.

Furthermore I acknowledge that he has also been a critic of the Provisional Movement and its’ leadership over the last two plus decades.

I also am mindful on a human level that the O’Callaghan family and his circle of friends will be grieving his loss at his time.

But I also believe that he was willingly used in the run up to the 1998 Belfast Agreement as a means of softening unionist attitudes, he was held up as an example of the contrition which a former terrorist can show and that he was somehow representative of those who carried out such deeds against their neighbours, the time which has elapsed has proven that Sean O’Callaghan (if his conversion was wholly genuine) was more so the exception than the rule.

I’m afraid that I am not in a position to do what Ruth requests – that I acknowledge Ruth Dudley Edwards has stated that I doubt Sean O’Callaghan’s remorse, that is not the case as I was not giving my own personal opinion in the initial comments issued. But for what it’s worth my personal view (not judgement) on Sean O’Callaghan is that I acknowledge that he provided support to a number of families who are seeking answers into events which led to the murder of their loved ones and I also acknowledge that in going back into the heart of the Provisional IRA and reporting to the Republic of Ireland State that he was risking his own life.

Furthermore I acknowledge that he has also been a critic of the Provisional Movement and its’ leadership over the last two plus decades.

I also am mindful on a human level that the O’Callaghan family and his circle of friends will be grieving his loss at his time.

But I also believe that he was willingly used in the run up to the 1998 Belfast Agreement as a means of softening unionist attitudes, he was held up as an example of the contrition which a former terrorist can show and that he was somehow representative of those who carried out such deeds against their neighbours, the time which has elapsed has proven that Sean O’Callaghan (if his conversion was wholly genuine) was more so the exception than the rule.

What Ruth Dudley Edwards asks that I do I am not in a position to do. Firstly I am not God and I do not know the sincerity or otherwise of Sean’s heart (In fact I never met the man) and secondly, my role is not to adjudicate but rather is to represent victims and their perspectives and feelings.

I have to say this and I do so unashamedly, when Sean O’Callaghan passed away last week my first thoughts and considerations were with the two families of those whom he confessed to murdering – UDR Greenfinch soldier Eva Martin (whose surviving family I know) and also the family of Peter Flanagan (who was an RUC Detective)

The questions I posed within the comments I gave are not my questions, those questions are questions which his victims sought answers to. Providing an account within an Autobiographical publication which is then sold in bookstores does not do justice to the needs of the families concerned.

There will be people who would seek to place myself and Ruth Dudley Edwards at loggerheads on this issue but that would be to diminish the actual debate that isn’t being had. Why is the weight of expectation forever upon the shoulders of the innocent to forgive those who have wronged them? Why is there no call from the great and the good to encourage remorse, repentance and restitutive acts from the terrorists and those who committed criminal acts? And if there is a genuine conversion within such individuals, then the onus is upon them to do what they can to atone for their wrongs.

Each and every one of us in life commits wrong, I too have committed wrong and must account for it and carry it with me. Some will feel that Sean O’Callaghan did what he could to atone for his sins, could he have done more by those he directly wronged?

The reality is that whatever atonement we commit to, we cannot live life backwards, the wrong we commit continues to in part define us, Eva and Peter (and possibly others) never had the chance to live their lives as was intended, those lives were stolen and for the families concerned, they must still carry that grief and loss.

Those within Society who have not had their flesh and blood stolen from them as a result of the so-called ‘Troubles,’ when neighbour dehumanised neighbour need to understand the perspective and needs of the innocent and prioritise them.