The largest consortium of victims groups operatijg across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain has called for political parties in Northern Ireland to “de-politicise victims’ issues” as well as “demonstrate humility” for current and past mistakes made.
In a statement, Kenny Donaldson Spokesman for Innocent Victims United stated: “The deadline for responses to be made to the NIO Legacy proposals was Friday last, in the days leading up to the deadline and since then there has been an intensification of acrimony between local political parties around the issues”.
“Whilst many will view this as part of the rough and tumble of politics we appeal for leadership to be shown by all concerned. The reality is that no political party based in these islands has a clean record concerning the treatment of innocent victims for two decades plus”.
“The political parties must step back and understand that the narrative and soul of our Country is not something which should ever be dealt with recklessly”.
“Innocents victims and survivors of terrorism require politicians to be responsible, assess where we have reached and collectively work together to end the empowerment of terrorism. This means being able to acknowledge previous wrong decisions made, whether in recent history or at the point of and/or since the signing of The Belfast Agreement”.
“There is not support for the current composition of the legacy proposals, that is without question and whether Republicanism claims a win in terms of the numbers game of submissions returned is irrelevant”.
“The reality is that the majority of innocent victims/survivors of terrorism (and particularly victims/survivors of The Provisional Republican Movement) don’t endorse what is on offer and neither political unionism, the U.K. Government or anyone else should feel arrogant enough to proceed against this backdrop,” concluded Mr Donaldson.
Within its’ response to the NIO Legacy Consultation, south Fermanagh-based victims’ group South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) has stated that “the proposals in their current format are unworkable and that they cannot and will not advance the needs of innocent victims/survivors of terrorism”.
The group went on to state that, “unless Government is prepared to rethink the very foundations of their proposals on legacy that the outcome will be a persecution of the UK State and its’ security forces with negligible accountability being faced by terrorist organisations and the Republic of Ireland State”.
In a statement SEFF’s Advocacy Services Manager Ken Funston stated: “Post the Belfast Agreement, victims and survivors were left on their own to deal with the legacy of the past whilst the victim makers, the terrorists, were continually rewarded. Just when it seemed like that neglect could not get any worse, the government plans to introduce legislation that potentially will assist the revisionist strategy of the terror organisations”.
“The DRAFT Bill before us is principally directed against retired members of the Security Forces and will not meaningfully investigate the role of the terrorist gangs who were responsible for over 3,000 murders. It is incomprehensible that the NIO could produce legislation of this nature without outside pressure. Anyone with a modicum of understanding will realise that there has been interference in order to produce the desired outcome from a weighted piece of legislation”.
“It is significant that the RoI has stepped away from this, is this about them avoiding any potentially embarrassing and damaging investigations that will only be directed against the British and the role of the Security Forces?”
Meanwhile SEFF’s Director of Services Kenny Donaldson added: “SEFF considers law and order to be the foundation stone of democracy and we will not assent to any further desecration of an already subverted criminal justice system”.
“Our core test for these proposals was; could we see tangible opportunities for our constituency’s needs and aspirations to be advanced, improving upon the current situation? As the proposals are currently written we do not have such confidence”.
“Our constituency of victims/survivors have been betrayed by a political process which has empowered terrorism and its’ political annexes and for over 20 years, innocent victims/survivors of terrorism have become more and more angry, hurt and despondent with the political and peace processes, to a point where they are almost now in a place where many feel they are anti-Establishment”.
“SEFF’s proposals critically analyse what is presently before us but we are also offering solutions, our proposals are based upon the need for fairness and inclusion and are justice and accountability centred,” concluded Mr Donaldson.
SEFF’s response to the NIO Legacy Consultation can be downloaded here.
SEFF’s Director of Services Kenny Donaldson stated: “Our organisation were once again privileged to work collaboratively with residents of the Ballygawley road in enabling the 30th Anniversary of the Ballygawley Bus Bomb to be marked appropriately”.
“There was an extremely large attendance at the roadside this year and the largest contingent of 1st Light Infantry former personnel and families returning to Omagh and Ballygawley”.
“It was especially encouraging to witness many have the strength to speak out this year in offering public interviews. Over the course of the weekend it became clear that many of those returning do have a deep interest in Northern Ireland related matters, in how the past is being represented and moreover what needs doing to improve support services in Great Britain for those suffering as a result of The Northern Ireland Troubles”.
“The weekend also brought home once again the heavy emotional and psychological price paid by those who came upon the aftermath of the atrocity – Omagh Protestant Boys and Star of the Valley, Londonderry, the military who policing response, the local Commubity and the medical profession. Trauma based support was not available at that time and many have carried on down the years without having dealt with the issues haunting their minds, we will be redoubling our efforts as an organisation in getting the necessary support put in place for surgery individuals”.
“The Ballygawley Road bombing was a cowardly act perpetrated by terrorists of the Provisional IRA, there was no justification and there was no honour in what was done. Eight young men in their prime were cut down and 28 others physically and scarred for life with many dying prematurely”.
“None of us can undo what has been done but we can but hope and pray that our efforts along with The Ballygawley Road residents will bring some comfort and recognition to those who lost much as a result of our ‘Troubles.’
“Let it be understood that those murdered were innocents, they were legitimate soldiers, they did not conceal their identity with balaclavas, they were here to do a job, to protect the community – The FULL Community and many people are determined that this will never be diminished or forgotten,” concluded Mr Donaldson.
You can view the livestream of the road-side service and dedication of the memorial here.
South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) is based in the Manderwood Industrial Estate, Lisnaskea and offers the following services to the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism and ‘other Troubles related criminal violence.’
The organisation is also involved in a range of community outreach initiatives designed to best facilitate a confident, thriving local community.
In the coming days the group will celebrate its’ 20th Anniversary since formation. The group was formed on the day of the Omagh Bomb, 15th August 1998.
In marking this significant milestone a range of events are planned for the week of the Anniversary as follows which will showcase SEFF’s work as a provider of services for victims/survivors but also the broader community.
The base for the Exhibition will be The Archdale Hall Complex, Main Street. Lisnaskea and will run from 12pm – 5.30pm each day with extended hours on the Tuesday and Wednesday through until circa 9pm.
Personnel across the various services will be present at the exhibition throughout the full week. Refreshments will be available to those visiting the Exhibition throughout the week.
Monday 13th August 2018
12pm – 12.30pm – Launch of Exhibition
12.30pm – 1pm – Presentation on Welfare Service
2pm – 4pm – Taster complementary therapy sessions provided by Sandra Johnston
2pm – 3pm – Presentation on Befriending and Morning SEFF Calling Services (including short Film)
3pm – 4.30pm – Presentation on Health and Wellbeing Caseworker service and facilitated discussion
Counselling and Complemetary Therapy service info will also be included in the Exhibition.
Tuesday 14th August 2018
1pm – 2pm – Presentation on SEFF’s Advocacy service
2pm – 5pm – Facilitated workshops from Glencree Peace and Reconciliation Centre
7pm – 9pm – SEFF’s 20th Anniversary Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving facilitated by Rev Alan Capper and Rev Alan Irwin followed by Supper
Wednesday 15th August 2018
10am – 11am – Briefing on SEFF’s work in supporting victims/survivors
11am – 1.30pm – Facilitated Border Trail of south Fermanagh (via Bus transport)
1.30pm – 5pm – Showcasing other SEFF Justice, Truth and Accountability work with personnel available to talk to visitors coming to the Hall.
7pm – 9pm – Presentation and discussion on Northern Ireland Office Legacy Consultation proposals
Thursday 16th August 2018
12pm – 2pm – Come along and learn about SEFF’s work with young people as well as our Community Allotments Project and our contribution to Good Relations within the local and wider community.
2pm – 5.30pm – Afternoon Tea and Social event facilitated by The FACT Project (for over 60’s) and there will also be folk dancing facilitated by Marie Phelan.
Please contact the SEFF office on: (028) 6772 3884 if you would wish to attend the South Fermanagh Border Trail or have queries around any other event planned that week.
SEFF contact details: 1 Manderwood Park. 1 Nutfield Road, Lisnaskea. County Fermanagh. BT92 0FP
17/07/2018 – When normality is then understood to be abnormality, the Pandora’s box is opened and if the necessary professional and empathetic support doesn’t then follow, the results can and will be grave.
The statement is made in the context of those military personnel who served in Northern Ireland within the context of the ensuing terrorist campaign.
As the first victim’s organisation to open offices in Great Britain in an effort to support the ‘hidden victims/survivors’ of The Northern Ireland Troubles, SEFF has an acute awareness of the sufferings experienced by former military personnel and indeed other civilians who have been impacted by The Northern Ireland Troubles.
It is an established understanding that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder kicks in an average of 13 – 14 years post exposure to a trauma related incident. For those who were subjected to such exposures in the 1970’s, many have suffered in silence for over 30 years.
The reality is that where the military are concerned, Northern Ireland is the ‘Forgotten War.’ Those military personnel, some 300,000 plus having served within the Regular Army units of the British Army are almost embarrassed to reference their service in Northern Ireland – why?
It was because of the intimacy of that campaign, its’ closeness to their own upbringing and the brutal guerrilla warfare techniques deployed by The Republican Movement which sought to provoke reaction and bring about the circumstances of Civil War – they failed in that strategy.
Children were often used as human shields by terrorists, men, women and children were viewed as collateral damage in their quest to overthrow the Northern Ireland State.
We work with hundreds of ex military personnel across the various Regimental families – Fusiliers, Paras, Light Infantry etc. Very many of those who served in Northern Ireland are confused at what life has become for them, they had no prior understanding of what exposure to trauma related events might mean for their own future mental health and wellbeing.
One method of addressing veteran’s PTSD and other mental health complexities is to provide a supportive environment whereby they might return to Northern Ireland to engage with the issue or issues which are having a debilitating influence upon their lives.
SEFF has brought back veterans who have been unable to board buses for 30 years since they were blown up with their colleagues, others who are unable to cope with loud noises or who have concerns about the smell of petrol (due to the bombs of terrorism and wider civil disorder) and others still who have been unable to be in close proximity to someone with an ‘Irish’ accent because of the painful memories it conjures up for them.
In bringing them back to this place and laying on supportive and facilitated Programmes many of these individuals have been able to face and ultimate defeat their demons. The normality of ‘The Past’ has been understood by them to have been abnormal but they are committed to having a normalised future.
There is certainly a need for a residential and respite-based centre for military veterans in Northern Ireland from which tailored programmes of support might be developed which would seek to support former veterans and their families to attain some closure and resolution to ills inflicted upon them and/or their colleagues over the years of the terrorist campaign, SEFF is committed to furthering this project in collaboration with others from across the ex Veteran fraternity.
Ultimately the failure to provide adequately for veterans will consign more to die through their brokenness whether that manifests as suicide, alcoholism or other debilitating health related conditions and premature death.
We need to do better by our veterans and their families; they gave all for the rest of Society after all.