Following on from the announcement of the Victims Forum one of the Victims Commissioners Brendan McAllister has an opinion piece in the News Letter entitled ’No need to sacrifice principles’ in Victims’ Forum. It is highly impressive waffle starting with a suitably vague quotation “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” McAllister explains that the commissioners took their time designing the Forum and the sensitivity they showed. He admits that some criticised the Forums membership but claimed the biggest number of calls came from people feeling moved to contact the Victims’ Commission for the first time to raise personal hurts and worries after years of being quiet.
He then went on to say On the whole the media have been fair and responsible in reporting news of the forum. However, we seem to have formed a habit of using column inches, airwaves and cyber space to express cynicism and negativity about any new initiative, whether it be in business, politics or, indeed, relating to victims.
Phrases like ‘victims industry’, ‘jobs for the boys’ and ‘junkets and freebees’ fall too easily and lazily from our mouths.He magnanimously explains that the Commission view such negative comments about themselves as a sign of weariness and fatigue in this wounded society. He goes on to explain that in time the Forum will speak with moral authority.
All this is of course standard cloying platitudes from the victims industry ignoring the simple fact that putting a murderer on a Victims Forum is a moral perversity almost beyond belief. Alex Kane (also in the News Letter) has characteristically set about destroying what intellectual basis this shoddy enterprise has.
Form Kanes piece:
I dont suppose that anyone was particularly surprised by the make-up of the Victims and Survivors Forum. Indeed, it’s a bit like the Victims’ Commission itself, a sort of smorgasbord in which every sector can claim to have some sort of voice to represent it.
Kane goes on to explain that it is completely dishonest (and McAllister must know that it is dishonest) to suggest that the Forum (or Commission) can effect any change in the definition of a victim:
Items on the agenda include the definition of a victim and the Eames/Bradley report. But since the six statutory duties of the Commission do not embrace the definition of victim, how can this new offshoot do anything to alter the definition? We know, already, that Sinn Fein will veto any attempts to change the definition; and we also know that it was that refusal to consider a re-definition which led to the farce of four Commissioners rather than a single one.
And what are they going to do about Eames/Bradley? The Commissioners did nothing about it. Meanwhile, Dennis Bradley insists that he still supports the £12,000 proposals and is busying himself with newspaper articles like this from Friday’s Irish News: “Both (Sinn Fein and the SDLP) have lost their strategic direction and are hearing mounting criticism and disappointment from their supporters. Neither party has laid out a credible plan to enhance or encourage Irish unity. Now that the IRA has gone, they might even consider working up a joint strategy for a new and better Ireland and that might give all their supporters a bit of hope.”
So if this new Forum doesn’t have the power to rewrite the definition of victim and doesn’t have the power to order the binning of the Eames/Bradley report, then what, precisely, is the point of having the items on the agenda?
Alex of course probably knows that this is to produce the pretenct of relevance and try to attract in otherwise sensible people like Raymond McCord whom Kane feels should not be involving themselves with the Forum. He also notes Willie Frazers presence despite the fact that Frazer suggested recently that he would not attend if terrorists were on the Forum: They can have as many terrorists as they want sitting on it because there will plenty of empty chairs, as no genuine self-respecting victim would give credibility to such a body.
Kane goes on to attack the whole Victims Industry The whole victims’ industry – and that is exactly what it has become, with its four Commissioners, Forum, dozens of representative groups, funding sources and legislation – really depresses me. Nothing will ever convince me that a terrorist (from either side of the fence) can ever be a ‘victim’. And nothing will ever convince me that the family of terrorists – even if they were unaware of the terrorist connections – should ever be considered as ‘victims’.
So rather than trying to define or redefine ‘victim,’ maybe we should look at the definition of ‘perpetrator’ instead? To me a ‘perpetrator’ is someone who unlawfully used a weapon or some other device, tactic or strategy to kill or maim another person, or to place them in fear of their life. Under that sort of definition there are no circumstances in which a terrorist could ever be regarded as a ‘victim’.
Similarly, it covers those occasions in which a member of the security forces unlawfully used their weapon. More importantly, however, it would prevent the sort of linguistic and legalistic fudge which has allowed terrorists and their targets to be classified together.
His final comments must be typical of very large numbers of people here:
No, not everyone is a ‘victim’. Hundreds of people were just vicious, brutal, killers. We must never forget that and we must never have a so-called victims’ strategy which allows us to forget it.
Of course the reality is that the whole purpose of Eames Bradley, the Victims Commission and now the Forum is to blur that distinction into unrecognisability.