Fermanagh-based victims’ group insists re-think needed on Legacy proposals

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.

Comments on the Ballygawley Bus Bomb 30th Anniversary Service

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.

SEFF celebrates 20 years in existence

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

Email: info@seff.org.uk and Website: www.seff.org.uk

Follow us on Facebook: SEFF Victims and SEFF Lisnaskea and on Twiiter @SEFFLisnaskea

This is the broken Legacy of Terrorism

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.

15 July 2018 – SEFF’s quartet to attend US Peace building Conference

This Summer local teens, Zara Ferguson (from Derrygonnelly) Sophie Carson (from Maguiresbridge) Melissa Keys (from Kesh) and Ambra West (from Irvinestown) along with chaperone and SEFF staff member Doreen Mullan will represent South East Fermanagh Foundation at a Global Peacebuilding Conference organised via the Tuesday’s Children organisation and its’ Project Common Bond Programme.

Those representing SEFF will be part of an International grouping of young people (some 80 strong from almost 20 different Nations across the World) whose families’ lives have been directly affected by Terrorism or other civil strife.

The Conference will be held at Colby College in Waterville, Maine over the period; July 28th – August 5th 2018.

The Tuesday’s Children organisation was founded to provide support and services for the children of 9/11 and others affected by Global terrorism organised the event through its’ Project Common Bond Programme.

Kenny Donaldson, Director of Services for South East Fermanagh Foundation commented: “SEFF are honoured to be again sending four young women to this year’s PCB Conference taking place in Waterville, Maine. All four attending are young women and Fermanagh lassies who’ll be accompanied by Chaperone Doreen Mullan”.

“SEFF encourages families and individuals connected with our organisation to build networks with others who come from similar backgrounds and experiences (irrespective of where they are located in the World) Together we are stronger”.

“The Conference will examine how genuine and sustainable Peace can be built within and between our peoples of the World; we trust that our SEFF reps come back equipped with a set of skills and learning which will equip them to be leaders within the community in the times that are ahead”.

Mr Donaldson concluded: “SEFF are clear that the use of terrorism and criminal violence in the furtherance of or defence of a so-called political objective cannot ever be justified whether that violence is perpetrated by Republican or Loyalist terrorists or individual members of the security forces who criminally breach the code. This message of consistency must be conveyed within public policy”.

For further info, please contact: Kenny Donaldson on: 028 677 23884 or 07900882770

Legacy Consultation led by Northern Ireland Office – GB Seminars

  • Monday 9th  July 2018 – Leeds Town Hall, Albert Room
  • Tuesday 10th  July 2018 – The Peace Centre, Warrington
  • Wednesday 11th July 2018 – Palace of Westminster, Committee Room 8 (London)  (from 6.30pm – 9pm)

Meetings with exception of London meeting will commence at 7pm,

with refreshments provided from 6.30pm onwards.

Refreshments for the London event will follow in the Red Lion Pub, Westminster at 9.30pm

What will happen at the Consultation sessions?

A Northern Ireland Office official(s) will be present at a number of the Consultation events and will input to proceedings as well as participate in a Q & A session. SEFF’s Advocacy service team will also contribute along with individuals from the legal and academic spheres.

Link to the Consultation documents: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/addressing-the-legacy-of-northern-irelands-past

Personnel within SEFF’s Advocacy service team will be on hand to assist individual victims/survivors to submit personalised responses. Post the Consultation events listed above a template response will be devised by our Advocacy team which individuals can then personalise as they would feel appropriate.

If you have any queries at this stage then please contact any member of SEFF’s Advocacy support team directly:

  • Ken Funston (Service Manager) – 07834488635
  • Ann Travers (Support Worker) – 07860850003
  • Wendy Stewart (Support Worker) – 07860850008
  • Pete Murtagh (Support Worker) – 07860850004
  • Yasmin Wright (Great Britain Support Worker) – 07860850017

We continue to impress upon you the importance of engaging in this process, and that you, as an individual, or your group make a comprehensive response before the closing date of 10th September 2018.

Northern Ireland Office-led Legacy Consultation – SEFF/IVU

Kenny Donaldson, Director of Services for Lisnaskea-based South East Fermanagh Foundation and Spokesman for Innocent victims United stated: “SEFF and the wider Innocent Victims United organisation has campaigned for effective legacy structures to be implemented for many years which would respond to the needs of innocent victims/survivors of terrorism and other ‘Troubles related criminal violence.’

“SEFF and more broadly IVU  are determined that the constituency of victims/survivors whom we serve will be represented over this Consultation period and beyond”, and this includes victims/survivors based throughout Great Britain who have often been overlooked by policy initiatives concerning victims/survivors impacted by The Northern Ireland Troubles”.

“There are huge numbers of people across Great Britain who have been directly impacted by the terrorist campaign whether ex service personnel and their families or members of the civilian population, their voices and needs must be heard and acted upon”.

“Victims and survivors should not be discriminated on the basis of where they happen to live, they should have equality of access to support services and other interventions, including reparation packages. It is essential that whatever flows post the Consultation is available to victims/survivors irrespective of their postcode”.

“The Northern Ireland Office proposals contain structures which Government claims will advance the justice, truth and accountability needs of individual victims and survivors. At early dissection there we have uncovered a number of fundamental flaws which must be redressed by Government; it is absolutely unsustainable to suggest that only those cases yet to be reviewed by the HET will have access to an HIU Investigation, this flies in this face of all Equality measures and must be rectified. The lack of focus upon the seriously injured is also a glaring omission and we will be putting forward our proposals over the Consultation period in adequately addressing this area of need”.

“We are also clear that any suite of institutions legislated for must be fair and balanced and guarantee innocent victims/survivors of terrorism equitable opportunity to have advancements made in their case; whether through pursuance of justice or truth,” concluded Mr Donaldson.

In Great Britain the three seminars will be delivered by SEFF in partnership and with support from the Tim Parry Jonathan Ball Foundation for Peace (Warrington)

New plaque unveiled in Clogher RBL to remember those who paid the supreme sacrifice

News Release – 12th May 2018

New plaque unveiled in Clogher RBL to remember those who paid the supreme sacrifice

On Saturday afternoon last a special service was held in Clogher Royal British Legion at which a plaque was unveiled remembering the 12 members of the security forces who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist campaign inflicted within the District.

Amongst the 12 families being remembered were three families from Great Britain whose loved ones were members of Regular Army units. These families were hosted in The Clogher Valley area over the weekend by Lisnaskea-based South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF)

Chairman of Clogher RBL Branch Harry Alexander explains: “Our Branch felt it very important to erect a plaque which would pay tribute to those who laid down their lives in defence of democracy and of defeating the terrorist campaign”.

“I had the great honour of serving with 11 of the 12 service personnel remembered and I found today particularly Saturday particularly poignant because it marked my own brother-in-law’s Anniversary – Ivan Hillen who is one of those remembered on the plaque”.

“We were delighted to work in partnership with SEFF this weekend where we have been able to host visiting families, bring them to the scenes where their loved ones were killed (which proved extremely emotional) and there was also an opportunity for some good relaxation time to be built into the weekend”.

Kenny Donaldson, SEFF’s Director of Services stated: “We owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who donned the uniforms of the police, military and prison service and who sought to serve the community, often paying a very heavy price for their courage”.

“The GB families visiting were advised of the support services they can now link into via SEF’s GB outreach project when they return home. We are determined that they will now feel part of the SEFF family support network”.

“We commend the Officers of Clogher RBL for first developing this initiative, the 12 individuals named on the plaque and all other innocent victims of the terrorist campaign will continue to be remembered with their heroic families,” concluded Mr Donaldson.

Celebrating South Fermanagh’s Cultural Diversity Project

Courtesy of funding received via The Northern Ireland Executive Office and its’ Central Good Relations Fund for 2017/2018, Lisnaskea-based groups; South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) and Carosyl Community Association (comprising Carrowshee and Sylvan Hill estates in the Town) have been working together over the past year to develop and also deliver a groundbreaking cultural diversity project for older and younger people within the area.

Project Coordinator and SEFF employee Jenny Ferguson explains: “Over the past 7-8 months people from across the FULL community have been coming together to engage on cultural diversity-themed issues. It has been heartening to see the levels of participation right across the community and age spectrum. We have explored areas such as; The Great War, The Easter Rising, sport, music, language, the Loyal Orders and we have learnt the true history of historical events and the role of historical personalities and figures. The core purpose of the Project has been about learning together within a non-threatening environment, busting the myths and falsehoods which have aided sectarianism down the years”.

Meanwhile Kathleen Breen, Secretary of Carrosyl Community Association added: “All who participated in the Project are proud of their south Fermanagh roots, it is our shared home. It has been a positive project for all concerned, relationships have been renewed and also developed for the first time between the older participants and also it has been positive to see the levels of engagement within the youth. Our group has a history of working with others from across the community but often these groups have been some geographical distance from us, this Project was different in that participants live within the south Fermanagh area and we hope that there will be a sustainable legacy of relationships post this Project’s completion”.Presentation of Collages

Director of Services for SEFF Kenny Donaldson stated: “Throughout the Project there were times of debate and of variances in opinion but crucially people stayed with the process, people from across the community appeared to relish the opportunity of being able to reconnect or in some cases connect for the first time. SEFF remains committed along with Carrosyl Community Association to further develop relationships thus enabling people from across the south Fermanagh community to better understand one another. A good foundation is in place and there is a will to try to build upon that foundation. The Celebrating South Fermanagh Project has sought to engender respect for cultural diversity, that this is something to be celebrated and not feared,” concluded Mr Donaldson.

Please download and share our Myth Busting Leaflet.

Hyde Park Ruling must signal a sea-change in policy – SEFF

Responding to confirmation that legal aid is to be granted to Hyde Park families in their civil case against John Downey, Lisnaskea-based South East Fermanagh Foundation which provides Advocacy support to the families has heralded the decision describing it as; “a significant step forward for innocent victims of terrorism”. The group went on to add that “the ruling is not the end but is merely the beginning”.

In a statement Advocacy Support Manager for SEFF Ken Funston stated: “SEFF is honoured to be supporting the families of Hyde Park through our Advocacy Support Service. We are striving to not only assist the advancement of this case but many others against terrorists”.

“The prospect of full justice is blocked to many innocent victims through the criminal courts but accountability will continue to be fought for through other means”.

“We commend the work of the lawyers, McCue and Partners LLP, supportive politicians but most importantly, the families of Hyde Park for their tenacity and the dignity they have shown throughout. John Downey may have cheated the prospect of being held accountable through the criminal courts, but he must still face accountability for the serious terrorist offences for which he is accused”.

Meanwhile SEFF’s London-based Advocacy Support Worker Yasmin Wright added: “It has been my pleasure to work closely with the Hyde Park families, they are ordinary yet extraordinary people. To date, the criminal justice system and the political system has failed the families, but through the civil litigation process there is now some prospect of delivering a measure of justice for those who have been so grievously wronged”.

“The UK Government has a long history of beating its’ chest in claiming that it does everything in its’ power to support its’ innocents who have been ravaged by terrorism, but yet it took the combined efforts of lawyers, a fundraising campaign, the Hyde Park bereaved, supportive individual politicians and SEFF to secure a just outcome from The Legal Aid Agency, that position is nothing short of scandalous”.

SEFF’s Director of Services Kenny Donaldson concluded: “On the back of this ruling we implore the Government and the criminal justice system to begin the fight-back against terrorism, the time for tough talking is over, tangible support must be given to innocent victims from this point forward. Terrorism was appeased to secure a so-called ‘Peace Agreement’ and it was further appeased to maintain that ‘Peace Agreement,’ now is the time for innocent victims to receive the concern and support of the structures supposedly in place to defend their basic human rights”.

“When we established our Advocacy Support Service we did so with a core objective in mind, bringing about justice, truth and accountability for the innocent victims of terrorism. This ruling represents a significant step but we are very clear as are the families and indeed the wider innocent victims community that the battle is just beginning,” concluded Mr Donaldson.

IVU supports democracy and is pro representation

In the aftermath of the resignation of Barry McElduff there has been significant speculation around the possibility of an agreed ‘Victim’s candidate’ who could contest an upcoming Westminster by-election.

Some have already asked, is such a notion even viable? Others still have suggested that there could be a toxicity to such an approach and then others have begun to speculate as to who a likely candidate would even be.

For us within Innocent Victims United we would appeal for political parties to honestly consider the following questions:

  1. Do they consider victim’s issues receive the dedicated focus they should within Westminster?
  2. Do they consider victim’s issues to be bigger than party political self interest?
  3. Do they believe that West Tyrone deserves representation and a voice at Westminster, particularly as a border constituency around matters such as Brexit?

If the answer to these questions is No, Yes and Yes then a way must be found to secure a candidate who can command respect across the community and truly represent victim’s issues but also issues which impact upon the social-economic wellbeing of West Tyrone inhabitants.

Northern Ireland is balkanised politically at Westminster level, the entirety of the West of Northern Ireland and a substantive section of  the southern corner of Northern Ireland is ‘represented’ by a pro-abstentionist party – Sinn Fein. This means that these communities are without effective leadership at Westminster level – is that really good enough?

We do not subscribe to the view that the election need be toxic, the victim’s issues which would arise within any campaign run way beyond the events of recent weeks.

The issues that require focus include; effective health and wellbeing and welfare services, reparation packages for victims/survivors being progressed, exposing and working towards redressing the justice deficit experienced by victims of terrorism and others impacted by criminal violence proven to be attributable to individual members of the security forces etc.

IVU supports the principle of raising victim’s issues within the political agenda, we also support the principles of democracy and we are pro representation.

Furthermore IVU continues to insist that the means to which we might bring about societal and individual reconciliation requires States, proscribed organisations and their political party annexes to show courage in affirming that:

“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?

This is our challenge to the political parties, go now and find a candidate.

Innocent Victims United is an umbrella organisation for 23 member groups base across N.I, RoI and GB and which collectively support over 11,500 individual victims and survivors (including many based within the West Tyrone constituency)