Eames-Bradley: on the hierarchy of victims

Chapter 3 of the Eames-Bradley report begins by going into considerable detail of who died and where. It’s clear that Belfast took the brunt of the often indiscriminate violence. According to their figures: East Belfast 128; North Belfast 576; West Belfast 623. The next largest figure is Derry City with 227 fatalities. It also contains those familiar figures of who, by organisation, were responsible. The vast majority of the victims were civilians or security forces. Whilst the vast majority of the killers were nationalist and republican:

Republican Paramilitary Groups 2055
Loyalist Paramilitary Groups 1020
Security Forces 368
Persons unknown 80

Whatever the justification offered for the respective campaigns, the quantitative burden of ‘victim’ status is striking. It falls argely upon innocents, and upon those urban populations which gave rise to and sustained the violent campaigns of various paramilitary groupings.

For a precise definition of victim, Eames-Bradley turned to current law:

In Article 3, paragraph 1 of the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, a ‘victim and survivor’ is defined as:

“(a) someone who is or has been physically or psychologically injured as a result of or in consequence of a conflict-related incident;
(b) someone who provides a substantial amount of care on a regular basis
for an individual mentioned in paragraph (a); or
(c) someone who has been bereaved as a result of or in consequence
of a conflict-related incident.”

The Order goes on to state that:

“Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), an individual may
be psychologically injured as a result of or in consequence of –
(a) witnessing a conflict-related incident or the consequences of such an incident; or
(b) providing medical or other emergency assistance to an individual in connection
with a conflict-related incident.”

The group then formulates its response terms of the ‘hierarchy of victims’ idea which as been around for much of the protracted period of the peace process. It is interesting that authors eschew the opportunity to deploy it with little in the way of intellectual, moral or legal argument. Rather they simply conclude:

The Group regrets and rejects the politicisation of victimhood. The true nature of the hierarchy of victims lies in the level of loss and suffering experienced during the conflict.

It is the difference between having your loved one killed or severely injured against having a car destroyed or your house damaged. That is the true hierarchy of victims.

The Group is, therefore, convinced that to continue the already highly politicised debate about the definition of a victim and the hierarchy of victims is both fruitless and self-defeating. It is of greater importance to respond to the needs of victims and survivors.

All submissions should be posited directly on the Consultation site, rather than on Slugger itself. This is a slow burn project, which we hope will allow us to come to useful conclusions, not simply about this report but with the wider issue of how a difficult and problematic past can be dealt with going forward. Contributions can be as general or as specific as you like.

You can respond to this post on Understanding perspectives and defining victims page.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty