Who are the victims?

UUP Victims spokesman Derek Hussey questions the Government and SDLP definition of the term “victim”.

Published in the Newsletter on Saturday August 19th.This week has marked the eighth anniversary of the Omagh bomb – one of the most horrific days in the history of Northern Ireland.

The geography of Northern Ireland bears witness to the depth and extent of conflict. Names that ought simply to map out locality instead catalogue atrocity – places like Omagh; Enniskillen; Darkley; Greysteel.

Communities have experienced tragedy throughout Northern Ireland. Many of these communities still experience a collective legacy of pain and suffering which society must deal with.

This is a vast challenge which must be faced up to. However, government policy on victims’ issues has been allowed to drift.

Commissioners, reports, investigations and consultations have all come and gone in the past number of years – yet we still lack a clear strategy, or even, understanding on how to deal collectively with the events of the past 35 years.

People like Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and Bertha McDougall have made invaluable contributions – but the core problem remains. And that core issue – of how we define who is a victim and who is not – demands clarity.

We should not expect that the solution can be provided by any one individual or commissioner – the answer lies in the thoughts and views of the people of Northern Ireland.

How have those opinions been articulated? How have the political class approached this issue?

The Government in its draft legislation stated that a victim is “someone who is or has been physically or psychologically injured as a result of or in consequence of a conflict-related incident”. And the 2003 Joint Declaration stated that that there is “no hierarchy of victims”.

This is the view of government. But what about local representatives? For example, the SDLP describes a victim as: “Any individual whose life has altered its course as a result of the bitterness and division in our society and who believes that the alteration was negative.”

In my view, the practical outworking of these statements are too loose to be workable, too fragile to bear the weight of equity required.

Constructive debate is vital to support the whole project. And while I value their contribution, I wholeheartedly disagree with the SDLP’s view.

Consider both the government and SDLP perspective, then consider: how would the families of those murdered by the Shankill Butchers, or those murdered at La Mon, Enniskillen or Omagh would react?

For example, could the application of the SDLP’s vision include Michael McKevitt or Torrens Knight as a victim? There can be no equivocation between the victim and the victim maker.

Perpetrators of violence are not victims of the Northern Ireland conflict. It is only right that account be taken of responsibility and criminal culpability in determining society’s collective approach.

Can those who operated outside the framework of civic society, who acted beyond the scope of acceptable, civilised values, who operated beyond law and order, who sought to remove from others the most fundamental of all rights – the right to life – be classed as ‘victim’?

This process must be built on principles of fairness, equity and understanding.

All agree that the state has a duty of care to victims of crime. But we need to be careful of government policy that chooses the path of least resistance.

The apologists of violence may seek to sanitise the horrors that were perpetrated on people here. But those who seek to justify and edify the victim maker must not be allowed to influence policy making.

Who would disagree with the application of agreed principles to ensure the process has the moral authority to be effective?

I am mindful that while this debate continues, for many, pain and hurt continues on as a very real aspect of daily life. It is imperative that resolution happens sooner rather than later.

If we are going to do our best by those who suffer then we have a responsibility to ensure that the conditions that created victims and conflict do not arise again. The Ulster Unionist Party will engage with all who share the vision for a peaceful, more tolerant and inclusive Northern Ireland.

I believe that the victims of the Troubles deserve no less.

  • gareth mccord

    what a disgrace!!
    what right does any unionist politician especially a uup/pup/uvf have speaking for the victims of violence. considering uup involvement in ignoring uvf/pup murderers of protestant people and continued death threats against victims campaigners families and journalists.why dont the unionist politicians wise up and stop hiding!! they have done nothing for the victims of loyalists murderers so why do they get involved in how to define a victim? TWO FACED HYPOCRITICAL VOTE PLEADING WASTERS IS ALL THE UNIONISTS POLITICIANS ARE!!

  • nmc

    My twopence worth:

    Things are not as black and white as this article, (or UUP election material or whatever), would make you believe. For example, someone loses a loved one to a Loyalist/Republican paramilitary group, and are therefore a victim. This person is then approached and recruited into a Republican/Loyalist paramilitary group and decides to join to avenge the death of their loved one, and then ceases to be a victim. Doesn’t make any sense.

  • bertie

    nmc

    they would cease to be an innocent victim and should be on the bottom rungs of the heirarchy.

    Gareth

    I have every sympathy for your view. From Hussey’s words
    “how would the families of those murdered by the Shankill Butchers, or those murdered at La Mon, Enniskillen or Omagh would react? ”

    I don’t suppose that too many of the were over the moon about the UUP linking up with the UVF via Ervine.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    bertie

    “I don’t suppose that too many of the were over the moon about the UUP linking up with the UVF via Ervine”

    Look the UVF is different, they were only taking the law into their own hands and at the same time playing into the hands of the real baddies.

  • rapunsel

    So Bertie.

    Your logic if applied form the perspective of the republican community would mean that de facto there are and could not be any “innocent” security force victims of the conflict. They too would be on the bottom rungs of the ladder, but i suppose that depends on who is building and maintaining the ladder. The issue is not so simple as you would portray. Would you accept that members of the security forces involved in say Bloody Sunday who perhaps were injured themselves at a later stage are not victims? What about the families of security force personel involve din ilegal activities who were killed in the course of their duty– would their familis also be on the bottom rung of the ladder? Can’t ay I have all the answers if any at all to some of these issues but it is foolish to present the isue so simplistically. I have raised it before but the special edition of the Shankill Miror issued last year was basically trying to present that there are no innocent catholic victims of the conflict. Is that your view too Bertie? Please give us in detail your definition of an innocent victim?

  • bertie

    “Your logic if applied form the perspective of the republican community would mean that de facto there are and could not be any “innocent” security force victims of the conflict ”

    I don’t see that logic is affected by perspective and the security force were legitimate forces so apart from those who as individuals committed acts of terrorism they were innocent victims.

    I have said that those involved in terrorim are not innocent victims. You cannot leitimately make presumptions about their families.

    “I have raised it before but the special edition of the Shankill Miror issued last year was basically trying to present that there are no innocent catholic victims of the conflict”

    I haven’t seen the special edition of the Shankhill Mirror and I’m not prepared to take your word for what it was trying to present. That is not maent to be personnally insulting but s many times people have represtented those who have a particular focus on one group of vitims as being a calculated attempt to deny that there are nay others so unless I saw somthing in the SM that specifice the there were “no catholic victims”, I won’t presume anything.

    ..,and no I don’t believe that there are no innocent Roman Catholic victims of terrorism and I ma interested in why you ask me the question.

  • rapunsel

    Bertie

    Ok. I am asking you that question because your definitions of legitimate and terrorism seem to be based on the assumption that all forces of a state are legitimate — and that those forces do not engage in terrorism– only the individuals within it. It’s an easy step in your logic to move from — these forces are legitimate to these forces are legitimate and therefore their acts are de facto legitimate. Is that what you think. The South African security forces for example were legitimate during apartheid — were their actions legitimate and did they ennage in terrorism. What do you mean by terrorism and can it be inflicted by legitimate forces?

  • bertie

    Not all the acts of individuals in a legitimate force are legitimate.

    “..,and no I don’t believe that there are no innocent Roman Catholic victims of terrorism and I ma interested in why you ask me the question.”

    The question I was specifically wondering about was the one about whether or not there have beem RC victims.

  • 50%+

    Gareth,
    Please remember that from a unionist perspective there are no such thing as catholic victims.
    Watch how they frame the debate – they are very skillful – “loyalist violence is only a reaction to republican violence”, therefore catholics have only themselves for supporting republicanism!
    qed They are not victims.

  • bertie

    “Please remember that from a unionist perspective there are no such thing as catholic victims.”

    What a load of nonsence. What is the basis for this assertion? It is invalid as long as there is even one unionist who who disagrees with this and indeed I doubt if there are many who wouldn’t.

  • rapunsel

    Bertie

    If you believe that there are RC victims — I accept that. I suppose where I was really going with that is trying to explore what distinguishes an innocent victim from a non innocent one. The factors that get raised tend to be along the lines for example that a) the person was a republican and therefore was not innocent, members of the person’s family were republicans or prisoners and the family were /are therefore not innocent. Whilst I can see a difference between victims and perpretators even these terms are not mutually exclusive. Once we get to down to identifying innocent and non innocent victims we are into subjectivity , this rather means that deciding who is or who is not a victim depends on political opinion rather than some objective way of looking at the impact of violence on that individual and their family and friends. Having a subjective opinion about who is and who is not a victim will tend to mean that those with the most power and influence can relegate other victims to ” non innocent ” victim status. To date this has ben the case with members of the catholic community killed by the state. It works the other way too in terms of groups like the IRA attempting to justify their actions

  • bertie

    rapunsel

    I’m not sure what you meant by “deciding who is or who is not a victim depends on political opinion”.

    For me an innocent victim is one who has been a victims of terrorism but who has not been involved in doing it or supporting it. This is regardless of the politics of the perpetrator or victim, (unless by politics you include membership of the IRA or UVF etc.)

  • But, bertie, how about the victims of state terrorism?

  • bertie

    My new resolution – don’t feed the trolls

    (I hope I stick to it longer than the New Year ones.)

  • POL

    Bertie seems to be all mixed here.He does`nt seem to acknowledge that state sponsored terrorism exists.The ostrich with its head in the sand syndrome.

    Simple question bertie!In your view there should be an heirachy of victims and republican(WHETHER PHYSICAL FORCE OR NOT)should be at the bottom ring of a pecking order.

    So lets bring this another step, are you also saying that in terms of victimhood that the republican killing of a mad dog loyalist is worth more victim points than that of a child simply because that child comes from a republican family.

  • Hidden Gem

    Bertie,

    …don’t feed the trolls…

    I wholeheartedly agree. I will try and take your advice!

    The roles of “victim of violence” and “instigator of violence” are not mutually exclusive. One can be either or both. It is a sad fact that innocent victims sometimes allow themselves to be dragged in to supporting the perpetrators of violence, and so the cycle continues….

    Don’t let them get you down!

  • bertie

    Pol

    I think that it is you that is mixed up.

    “Simple question bertie!In your view there should be an heirachy of victims and republican(WHETHER PHYSICAL FORCE OR NOT)should be at the bottom ring of a pecking order. ”

    Interesting that you single out repubican and not terrorist and that says more about you than about me.

    I have no idea what you are getting at with the capitals.

    Your second question is particularly stupid considering that I have made it clear that the UVF are terorists and so any of their members who were victims would be amongst the bottom rungs and I have also said that you can’t make assumtions about families.

  • GPJ

    What about state terrorism? A valid question as the PIRA would not of emerged, if Unionism had not committed crimes against the minority population of the six counties.

  • The Dog

    The truth is that we are all victims of terrorism.

    The terrorism that resulted in the illegal formation of the 6 county statelet by force and threat of arms.

    The terrorism of colonialism.

    The terrorism of uprising.

    THe terrorism of resistance.

    Terrorism is, in some ways, a modern construct to legitimaise state terrorism.

    I think we need to get over ourselves a bit – the only definition that should be important is the definition agreed by people themselves.

    For example someone who lived next door to someone who was shot may not by some definition be a victim. But for example if it happened in front of them or led to the house being targeted this would then make them a victim. But then the individual may not view themselves as such.

    I think that the innocent/non-innocent stuff is such a pile of crap.

    All it ultuimately does is expose a lack of humanity on the part of those perpetuating the myths about bad people and good people.

    The fact is that many good people, possibly even victims, find themselves in situations and the circumstance results in ‘bad’ things.

    It is a myth created and maintained by some bad people who did nothing – and hence contributed the conflict through inaction or useless and pointles moralising.

    Or even worse by bad people who profited from the violence.

  • bertie

    Hidden Gem

    I agree that victim and perpetrator aren’t murually exclusive but when an innocent victim starts supporting terrorism then the lose their “innocent” status in my opinion.

    I would put those who were perpetrators before they were victims on the bottom rung and those were victims before being perpetrators above them.

    GRP
    Unionism didn’t do anything neither did Nationalism. Innocent victims are innocent victims and no terrorism was justified.

  • lib2016

    “It is a myth created and maintained by some bad people…..”

    Presumably the supremacists from whatever side who have to create a pecking order in order to justify their own actions, or lack of same. Every jail has the same system with the blackmailers and extortionists looking down on the se criminals etc.

    How often have we seen on Slugger dozens of references to the reprisals which took place in Cork after the War of Independence?

    A damned sight more than the number of references to the war waged against the nationalist people, both Protestant and Catholic who were killed in such numbers that we still don’t have the total. Just as there are no references to outrages such as the burning of Cork and smaller towns.

    No doubt they too were ‘the actions of a few bad apples’?

  • rapunsel

    Bertie

    At least you are honest in your belief in this hierarchy of victims. God help us though if the likes of you have any say in how services are to be developed and funded for victims — mind you probably already work for the office of the victims commissioner. Now that you believe in this hierarchy– would you mind drawing us a picture of it — maybe some sort of diagram along the Arnstein ladder of participation.

    Just to be clear on your definition– children and their families killed/injured for example by plastic bullets during the course of “legitimate” security force action would not be innocent victims? What about paramilitaries and their family members where they had been killed/injured by other paramilitary members– e.g. some of those killed by Michael Stone at Milltown?

  • GPJ

    “Unionism didn’t do anything neither did Nationalism. Innocent victims are innocent victims and no terrorism was justified.”

    An effective one party dictatorship with laws against dissent which was envied by aparthied S.African ministers.

    Cause and effect bertie, the crimes of the N.I state against the artificially created minority population caused the formation of the PIRA.

    So what about these victims forced to resort to violence to regain their human rights?

  • bertie

    I repeat unionism did nothing isms don’t

    “Cause and effect bertie”

    bollox!
    excuses
    “So what about these victims forced to resort to violence to regain their human rights”

    I know of none.

  • [i]”I know of none.”[/i]

    All that silliness proves is your ignorance, bertie.

  • bertie

    still not feeding trolls.