Is there really no hierarchy of victims when it comes to the past?

There has been a lot of words written/spoken etc on the issue of Eibhlin Glenholmes (once ‘Britain’s most wanted woman’) being appointed to a panel hand picked by all three of the three Victims Commissioners. Stephen Nolan decided to lance the boil last night, even though as two of panelists pointed out we did not know who else was to sit on the the victims panel.

There’s a couple of things to say about this. One, why appoint a set of Victims Commissioners and then try to tie their hand post hoc in getting on with a pre-tested process for giving victims of the troubles an opportunity to at least open a debate about the way forward in dealing with the past. Two, it is clear that whatever her past involvement Ms Glenholmes is as committed as anyone else in her party to the successful propagation of a peaceful settlement.

It would be harsh and unfair to ask ‘what all the fuss is’, since it is clear to anyone who gives the figures of past fatalities even a cursory glance that the Republican movement of which Ms Glenholmes was/is a part accounted for by far the most fatalities through their prosecution of a long term, low level guerrilla war.

But last night’s programme did throw up a problem which has long bedevilled work in this area. Is there is a hierarchy of victims? Is it right Thomas Begley be equated a victim (‘one of the two IRA men caught up in the Shankill bomb blast’ according to Jude) with Alan McBride’s wife whom he actively killed? Alan gives his own well thought through answer in the course of the programme.

At a certain point, towards the end of the debate, Nolan asks Alex Maskey outright whether it is part of Sinn Fein’s political agenda to flatten the differences between the person who pulls the trigger and the one who’s killed in a bomb. You can hear his answer here:

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  • salgado

    Not really touching on the topic, but it was interesting to see Mike Nesbitt trying to do his “I’m open, persuade me of this.” line towards SF again. And getting called out for it.

  • Neil

    Victims according to Dennis Bradley on Nolan first thing this morning (top of the show) in this instance relates to the survivors, not the deceased. Likely Thomas Begley and Mrs. McBride are long past caring. Did Thomas Begley’s mother suffer as a direct result of the troubles? To me the answer is fairly clear.

    If you missed Nolan earlier the start’s worth a listen for more info, Dennis also said that it was his view that the DUP would love an amnesty primarily for former Police because the former cops are terrified of getting their own knock on the door. Shinners primarily for former volunteers, and both of them want an amnesty, slates wiped clean, walk away and no-one’s to speak of it again.

  • Neil


    looks to me like someone had a word and told him to be less cantankerous with the host, but he definitely didn’t get things quite so much his own way this time.

  • galloglaigh

    The idea of walking away and ‘forgetting about it’, is a good move. As you pointed out Neil, as long as republican and loyalist members are still being pursued, there’ll still be those looking at the state. Without offending the victims, all the victims, a process could be put in place, that would bury the hatchet once and for all. It’s the people here who now need to unite. But I doubt that’ll happen when you have people like Mike Nesbit and Jim Allister about; they never cease to ram the knife in a little bit more, while at the same time denying the states’ roll ‘during the war’.

  • Hedley Lamarr

    I can understand how everybody who died etc. during the troubles can come under the same definition of “victim”. If not you would have to go through a case by case appraisal of everybody adversely affected.

    Every victim’s story is nuanced, individual and unique. You can’t blanket one group out of the definition or one in. There were people who killed uninvolved innocents in every group whether that be police, army or paramilitaries.

    What I can’t understand, definition aside, is some people are obviously more involved or took risks and there must be some sort of responsibility for one’s actions. If you were planting a bomb and killed a child and yourself you must hold some sort of responsibility. The child holds none.

    Definition of “victim” can be universal but some people chose to risk their lives and/or chose to take others’ lives. As I said before this goes for police, army and paramilitaries. Some may have been more prolific than others but if you go down that road you would have to go through everything on a case by case basis.

    You should do so but only to show that the individual stories matter more than a definition.

  • Mick Fealty

    I heard it said earlier today that even the police and members of the British Armed Forces would see a difference between themselves who as you say Hedley recognise there was a difference between those who took risks – like themselves – and those who were innocent victims.

    What Alex quotes is in fact an extract from the legislation, which is simple and has at least the utility of facilitating action. The alternative, as has already been said here, could well be no resources or help being given to anyone for want of a means to resolve the various disputes.

    But it still can be argued that there are all manner of levels of victimhood. Leave aside for a moment those who died, what about those 40,000 Mike Nesbitt said on Hearts and MInds last Thursday who have been physical or even mentally incapacitated as a result of what happened to them ‘in the war’?

    They are still very much still with us.

  • andnowwhat

    Ms Glenholmes case of how a participant (remembering that she was never convicted of anything) can be a victim. Ms Glenholmes, as I am sure we are all aware, was shot and injured as a 16 year old. As mentioned last night, were it not for the gun of her loyalist attackers jamming, she would have died.

    I’ve alluded before to the influence of events on people and their decisions and I say this as one with friends and relatives who were active in the conflict but what if one was from an area where there was heavy handedness or where someone was killed by security forces but there was lies involved. Nor just lies about the perpetrator of the killing but lies about the victim(s). There may seem that there is simply no recourse for justice other than to become active.

    Would someone in such circumstances be a victim?

  • Turgon

    Of course there is a hierarchy of victims except in that some like Begley were not victims at all: they were perpetrators. Begley was a murderer who accidentally killed himself in the process of murdering others. He is in no way a victim.

    So there is a clear hierarchy of victims. What there is not is a hierarchy of grief. Begley’s mother has lost a son just as much as any other mother. Her grief has validity: her son’s “victimhood” does not.

  • andnowwhat

    But who was it that Begley and Kelly set out to attack that afternoon?

  • Mick Fealty

    So motive matters? Even if you are lied about?

  • andnowwhat

    Is that to me Mick?

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes. Sorry. Poor question. Forget second bit.

  • andnowwhat

    No problem Mick.

    I’ve board the crap too many times on the background to why people I know joined the IRA (both flavours) but suffice as to say that there were sustained on Catholics (and the chapel, St Bernard’s) in the area which the police not only wouldn’t do anything about, but which was knowingly headed by a senior cops son. This was Glengormley at the early days of the troubles.

    Again, if I was from Derry and knew the truth of Bloody Sunday or the murder of Billy Mc Greanery and saw that not only was there no justice in these cases but (as happened in both circumstances) the victims names were deliberately defamed, why would I not seek retribution unlawfully in circumstances were lawfulness had been thrown aside by the state?

  • sdelaneys

    When some victims have commemorations in their memory and their families are shown an element of respect by various organisations and, at the same time, others are basically forgotten by all but their families and close friends there is an obvious hierarchy of victims. While some have paramilitary or military funerals with pomp and ceremony and others are buried quietly(or in secret) without fuss there is a hierarchy of victims. For those who survived there are different treatments for many too, depending on what they represented, and it seems to me that those who are at the very bottom of the pile are the ordinary civilians who were killed or injured while minding their own business. I understand the need to treat all families of victims as fairly as possible but that still does not equate to no hierarchy of victims. Is Bobby Sands the same as Jean McConville? Is Robert McCartney the same as Robert Nairac? Is Lord Mountbatten the same as Paul Quinn?

  • tyrone_taggart

    “So motive matters?”

    If not that then what does?

    What was “Begley” getting out of his actions?

    Anyone who was celebrating the happy days of “ulster will fight and ulster will be right” is in no position to judge their unwanted offspring “Begley”.

  • Mister Joe

    Were the people blown up in the hut on 20th July victims or did they get what they deserved?

  • sonofstrongbow

    The process has been called correctly many times. It is part of the ‘war’ rhetoric of Irish Republicans who continue to peddle their nonsense. The objective of the propaganda is simple: to portray terrorists as ‘soldiers’ fighting a ‘just war’. Hence we have high profile individuals appointed to high profile positions in an attempt to validate their past actions and portray them as normal members of society. In the most reprehensible of instances this is taken to the extreme to portray perpetrators as victims.

    However for most people it will not wash. Some stains cannot be removed.

    In a domcratic society people must accept terrorists as politicians if people in large enough numbers vote for them; a phenomenon particularly stark in one community in Northern Ireland. That acceptance shouldn’t, and I believe it does not, come with any degree of moral comfort.

    However the situation for appointees is very different and inappropriate individuals should be robustly challenged. Failing to do so will allow the gulf between the bomber and the bombed to be eroded.

  • andnowwhat


    What are your objections to Ms Glenholmes’ appointment?

  • Mister Joe

    By 1993, most demands of the CR movement had been met and there was no excuse for the IRA acts of terror. The leaders of that are in no way victims although an argument could be made for some of the misguided youths who were brainwashed into following them.

  • Mister Joe

    1973, of course.

  • ranger1640

    Pick over the bones of this one. The provos say sorry for Bloody Friday and that makes everything fine. Now combatants and non-combatants are equal.

  • andnowwhat

    Mister Joe

    Not one of the volunteers I know think that it should have went on past ’72. We also know that the IRA were in talks to cease the conflict almost 2 decades before the year you cite. What the CNR community did not have, even i ’93, was recognition of the legitimacy of their asprations.

    How freely did political unionism meet CNR’s demands?

  • andnowwhat

    Mister Joe

    Sorry, was typing while you posted your correction.

    I well remember the unionists reaction in ’73 just as I remember how the potatoes tasted that were cooked in the livingroom fire because there was no gas supply

  • Mister Joe


    I fully understand. But it raises the equivalent question to “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

  • Mick Fealty

    Let’s try not drift too far from the original question. Is there really no such thing as a hierarchy of victims?

    Motive is important I think, though it is also hard to discern specific motives even after the most intense investigation (think Saville).

    But I think it important to consider whether Alex’s position is tenable in a wider (ie non legal) sense.

  • andnowwhat

    Ranger 1640

    And who said sorry for this?

    How long did the, easily verifiable, cop who shot 9 year old Patrick Rooney serve?

    And so the whataboutery begins but maybe whataboutery is so de riguer because what happened stemmed from something too complex to satisfy a biased need to be the right side.

  • Mick Fealty

    Joe, I’m looking at YOU.

  • Mister Joe


    As demonstrated, it depends of both who is asking and who is answering the question.

  • weidm7

    andnowwhat put very poignantly the situation which people like sonofstrongbow continue to ignore, sonofstrongbow, would you like to respond to his comment about the situation in Derry and catholic areas at the start of the troubles and before? Do you still consider these actions unjustified?

  • andnowwhat


    For obvious reasons, I can only speak from my side. From my personal perspective (that and £1.80 will get you a bus ride)b the republican end is divisable in to 4 sectons of the conflict.

    The first is ’69 to ’72. I see the reaction to what happened as understandable, whether legitimate or not.

    The ’72 until the hunger strike period and the mire of what happened then.

    Then there’s the hunger strike period and the transformation of Sinn Fein.

    Obviously, the post conflict period is the fourth.

  • Hedley Lamarr

    I don’t think you can have an official hierarchy of victims or even a definition of a hierarchy. An all-encompassing definition of ‘victim’ with an expressed acknowledgement of differences in individual circumstances may be the only way to bring some sort of reconciliation. All victims are different but they should fall under the same definition.

    Otherwise you can argue any position.

  • Mick Fealty

    You’re allowing yourself to be drawn into history, which is a bit of an abstraction from the question in hand.

  • Brian Walker

    There is a hierarchy of victims when it comes to compensation payments.It is not a matter of “terrorrists” vs “security forces” and “innocent victims” but whether the person broke the law. There isn’t a distinction when it comes to welfare payments I believe, but am open to correction. These are based on some estimate of need.

    Apart from these categories is it a question which can be definitively answered? Need the attempt be made?

    But the Glenholmes case as others have said is about perpetrators and the distinction which is frequently made between legal and factual guilt or at least implication.

    Sinn Fein are making a point they sometimes make but not always.

    While it makes many angry and naturally so, what is the difference between her and many others? Might it be better to greet this minor appointment with a dignified silence?

  • Hedley Lamarr

    The problem is Brian that it is a matter of “terrorists” vs “security forces” vs “innocent victims” as there have been few members of the “security forces” compared proportionately with “terrorists” who have been found to have broken the law no matter what they have done.

    This may be one of the reasons why so many people want the law-breaking “terrorists” to be excluded from the definition of victim and the police and army included.

  • ranger1640


    The “sorry” is not the issue the analogy in my post, is that the provos are saying bombers and the bombers victims are one and the same. I beg to differ.

    According to Alex Maskey everyone was a victim, including the RUC officers so what’s your point.

  • Mick Fealty


    That was the question Nesbitt failed to answer last night I think. There are fights worth picking and some worth letting go. This one, though I can understand why he might feel the pressure to fight it, is probably one of the latter.

    The trouble is some of these ‘equal’ victims are accorded different levels of treatment than others (with more than a whiff of Animal Farm about it). But it is true that the vast majority have no major political point to labour.

    There are others, who might be termed perpetrators, who nevertheless pay day in and day out with anguish for what they did in the broad flush of youth, or in the midst of some fear what might otherwise befall their community.

    But on occasion this issue is so badly mishandled that it cannot but hurt people all over again…

  • sonofstrongbow

    Did the situation, I suppose as it applied to the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican community, justify the murder and mayhem? Most certainly not.

    To suggest that the motive of those involved in violence somehow justifies their violence is outrageous. Presumably everyone who committed a violent act had a motive. Take, for example, that perennial bogeyman of Irish Republicanism the murderous ‘RUCman’. Let’s say this cop joined the police in the late sixties because he had wanted to be a police officer from childhood, loved ‘Z Cars’ etc. so perhaps not the Orange Stormtrooper of the fevered Republican mind.

    In the early seventies he sees a colleague gunned down. The police force is already struggling to contain widespread violence and he sees no possibility of his friend’s murderers being brought to justice. He believes he knowns their identities and proceeds to murder them. His ‘motive’ is clear. He feels powerless and thinks his friend’s killers are going to get away with it.

    Is he justified because of his actions being motivated? Of course not. He should be arrested and put before a court.

    Perhaps what has been suggested by others is a hierarchy of motive? Motive that chimes with their perception of their tribe’s political and social position is translated as justification. The motives of others are disregarded or treated simply as sectarian/oppressive violence plucked from the ether to be visited upon them.

  • Mick Fealty

    A sort of ‘justification by faith’ so to speak SoS?

  • andnowwhat

    The caller Jude, who I have heard on Nolan’s radio show, was fantastic. His ability to detach his personal suffering from the circumstances and the motivation of the person who killed his mother is an attitude I share but that’s not something all can do.

    This is IMHO the crux of the matter, what the victims group is asking us to do. There’s also the issue of looking at “offenders” today and since they were involved in the conflict. Another point is, who are these people and question of would they have been “offenders” had they been born in other circumstances here or elsewhere.

  • Mick Fealty

    He was good. He also part of the prototype forum so he has clearly come a very long way. I’m not sure though that the intention is to bring everyone to exactly the same place.

  • tyrone_taggart


    You appear to be putting the “murder and mayhem” down to the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican community. As they was not in charge of the state. They did not have control of the situation which lead up to the “murder and mayhem” I am left to wonder why you think they did it?

  • Mick Fealty


    I think he’s actually responding to on topic points made on the thread regarding ‘motive’ rather than committing a blood slander.

    Let’s keep it calm and on topic.

  • andnowwhat

    Yep Mick.

    I’d be interested to know how, when and why Jude came to that perspective. As I said, I’d never expect his understanding and perspective to be a remotely common one.

  • sonofstrongbow

    Indeed Mick.

    I do not believe that violence came from one group alone. There was Republican violence, loyalist violence and security force violence (both lawful and unlawful – and where unlawful those responsible should be pursued in the same way as any other individual/group of offenders).

    However I ‘wonder’ if you are subliminally suggesting that there is some point we could wind back to when the rot set in, and where we can identify who was responsible for this canker’s start, the original sin so to speak. Then the subsequent trail of bodies can be looked at in ‘context’ and the ‘good’ doing ‘bad’ things were somehow justified.

    But I see I’ve followed your lead off piste so I’ll leave it.

  • tyrone_taggart


    I thought I was dealing with motive? The topic being “hierarchy of victims” is being framed in terms of the troubles.

    I come from the west and wonder should we not count the quiet horror of discrimination? The slow destruction of people like rust on metal does not make the news but lives were destroyed all the same.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just try and tie it with the topic? I feel I’m repeating myself rather too much. But there is probably a lot to unpack around the central question.

  • Alias

    There is a hierarchy of victimisers with the leaders of the preferred republican murder gangs leading charmed lives and those in the intelligence community who pulled their strings leading extra-charmed lives (honours, promotions, and not a conviction in sight). On the state side, touts like Scappaticci retired a rich man despite murdering circa 50 or so ‘volunteers’ to protect the higher up touts. Marty is now in a well-paid state job when Operation Taurus would have engineered a different outcome and the head of PIRA, Tom Murphy, seems to lead another charmed life as one of the wealthiest men in the UK, etc, etc. On the lower end of the hierarchy of victimisers are Gerry McGeough and Marian Price. Back to the higher end, those like Eibhlin Glenholmes get their turn to stick a snout in the trough.

    There must always be a hierarchy of victims simply so that society may continue to grasp the moral difference between a murderer and those innocent victims he set out to murder but the price to society of electing murderers to public office would always be that the state would attempt to obscure the moral difference between the victim and the victimiser lest the public should apply an uncorrupted morality and duly refuse to reward the guilty, thereby making it difficult for the state to inject them into the political process as part of its settlement.

  • Mister Joe

    …there is some point we could wind back to when the rot set in..

    That would be 1168, attributable to Dermot MacMurchada.

  • DC

    “So motive matters?”

    If not that then what does?

    The merits of it?

  • Mick Fealty

    Alias, NO ONE gets paid for sitting on this forum/panel.

  • cynic2

    ” Is there really no such thing as a hierarchy of victims?”

    The fundamental issue comes when you try to set up a hierarchy… leads to all sorts of sophistry. Why we might even get into the territory that all those young men (like the last hunger strikers) who died because they were misled and lied to by their own leaders were victims of those leaders.

    For me the fundamental issues are those of innocence and the law.

    Were those killed or injured simply living their lives as peaceful law abiding citizens living within the law? If they were then they were victims.

    A terrorist justifiably killed by the security forces within the law isn’t a victim.

    Anyone killed by terrorists is a victim. Even a proven terrorist killed by another terrorist is a victim as they should have been arrested and brought to court. Their own actions may have contributed to their death but that is still no justification

    Those who want no hierarchy are those with things to hide – like sometimes their own culpability in the murder of thousands.

    And by the way wasnt it great to see the decision in the Ballymurphy 7 case. This has now opened the flood gates for all those injured or bereaved by PIRA down the years to sue the leadership of the Republican Movement for their role in a criminal conspiracy.

    Tiocfaidh ár lá boys!

  • tyrone_taggart


    The thread is about “Victims Commissioners” who is suitable to be one.

    Is one to blame the people who ran NI and set it up such that it discriminated and gerrymandered against its own people? What it did do is create the conditions for the troubles which was to come later. What is clear is the worst of the troubles equates often with were the worst of the discrimination occurred.

    What I am sure of is that we need people in those roles from right across all boundaries and if we discriminate because of who they are or what they done then will will end up repeating the mistakes of the past.

    As hard for some to understand the “Security” forces was a concept that Unionists had. For many nationalists they was a force of terror who for not only there existence but there parents. They was part of a discriminatory states means of controlling those they did not trust.

  • Little James

    Cynic2 – What decision on the Ballymurphy 7 ?

  • Mick Fealty


    Go back and read it again. That’s what Nolan was about. This thread deals with that (ie, kicks it to touch) then asks a very specific question…

  • DC

    Do you really expect it to be successfully ‘unpacked’ on here, it’s clearly a contested area with opinions dividing.

    Although, you would have to wonder if there isn’t a hierarchy is SF filtering this through a not very complex framework of ‘it’s society’s fault’.

    Anyway if you find it all a bit twisted and vexed, and if you want to try and keep on the right side of things, just follow my own easy and not very complex approach to all things SF – it goes like this: when Sinn Fein say yes, you say no, when Sinn Fein say no, you say yes.

    It even works in response to ‘there is no hierarchy of victims’ because yes there is a hierarchy of victims.

    You see, voila.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “flatten the differences between the person who pulls the trigger and the one who’s killed in a bomb”

    At the end of that particular action I would rather be the person who is pulling the trigger than being killed in the bomb (though death is not the worst outcome).

    To find out who is the “bigger” victim then you would have to know who is pulling the trigger and who is at the end of the bomb. The state pays it security forces to do that sort of thing not on the basis of morality but money.


    On the recent Noel Thompson clip, Nesbitt had no policies; on Nolan he had no position. Despite his claims to want to show leadership he was shown to be seriously wanting, first by Alex Maskey and then by the rather excellent guy called Jude. By the end it was even difficult to believe he had ever been a Victim’s Commissioner. Yet another small step into the valley of oblivion.

    Whether we like it or not the definition of victim has been determined and while a hierarchy of victims may well exist in one’s own mind, to think that there will ever be a unanimously agreed official hierarchy is the land of make-believe. The question for me is why certain people, or certain sections of people, believe that their particular views and their particular perspective should carry more weight than any other; there are two sides, two versions of the conflict and two very different understandings of what happened and why. Of course each of us is entitled to our own views and to put forward our own interpretations but if we are going to move on we must accept that there are other versions, even if we don’t agree with them. On that note Alex Maskey, the guy Jude, the seventeen year old unionist and the Victims’ Commissioner are way ahead of Mike Nesbitt.

    We cannot move forward to addressing the very real needs of victims if policy is going to be determined solely by those suffering (understandable) raw emotion. Of course victims have the right to be heard but they do not have the right to veto an appointment whether it be a special advisor, a representative of victims or a deputy First Minister. We don’t ask victims of road traffic accidents to determine the sentences of those convicted of road traffic offences. The idea that a panel of 25 representatives of victims of a conflict should not include someone drawn from the main protagonist in the conflict is simply absurd.

  • DC

    Dammit, apologies, I actually fell into the Stephen Nolan trap.

    Reminds me of a comment made by a very young and very naive kid, “everywhere that woman goes there’s trouble”, in response to seeing Kate Adie again on the news in some war torn area.

    Stephen Nolan’s a bit like that except worse, everywhere he goes whether you see or hear him he’ll no doubt be on top of some seriously contested issue – if not insoluble – it will all be up for debate on his show, the questions and panel rigged in such a way that there will never be any consensus formed.

    Of course Nolan will come across as a media mother teresa type, concerned and in knots himself trying to get the views out there to the public, he will wrestle with those knotty social and political issues trying to figure it all out and find the right response and path for his public, but I reckon he doesn’t really give a damn. In relation to NI issues when has divided opinion ever been bridged on his show, esp ones touching on issues such as the above?

  • According to Mitchel McLaughlin on GMU this morning (might have been Nolan; it all merges after a while) everyone is a victim in Northern Ireland. Constructive ambiguity of the political settlement has now descended into moral ambiguity.

    But if we are all victims, then who victimised us, or did we all just do it (whatever *it* is) to each other? We’re all to blame! What then is the point of a truth commission, if SF already know the answer?

  • Alias

    “Alias, NO ONE gets paid for sitting on this forum/panel.”

    Good. A practice that should be extended to as much of the peace processing industry as possible.

  • andnowwhat

    Not Now Johm

    Excellent comment. Nesbitt trying to play the politician reminds me of my wee girl walking about in her mum’s high heels. It was odd Nolan, rightly, highlighting Ms Glenholmes as never having been convicted of anything because that’s such a valid and conveniently missed (by those who choose to) point on the specific issue of her invitation

    None of us commenting know what activities she was active in, if any but we do know that she was shot as a 16 year old and was very lucky not to have been killed. I wonder if her attitude to the guys who shot her would be akin to Jude’s?

  • Alias

    “Whether we like it or not the definition of victim has been determined and while a hierarchy of victims may well exist in one’s own mind, to think that there will ever be a unanimously agreed official hierarchy is the land of make-believe.”

    It doesn’t have to be unanimously agreed. The definition of murder isn’t unanimously agreed either, so if you let a self-serving minority apply bogus qualifications you’d end up declaring that the proposition that the moon is made of green cheese is a perfectly reasonable viewpoint to hold when it is patent nonsense. These definitions have already been officially determined – and it was one self-serving party (the Shinners) who coined the term “hierarchy of victims” in response to it.

    “Of course victims have the right to be heard but they do not have the right to veto an appointment whether it be a special advisor, a representative of victims or a deputy First Minister.”

    Whereas the victimisers do have the right to veto justice for the victims, and hence they haven’t received any. It is not surprising that the victimisers have the right to veto justice for their victims since that is a direct consequence of electing the victimisers to public office. In reserved matters, the other victimiser – the British state – also controls what justice victims receive, and hence they haven’t received any from that quarter either.

    At any rate, it’s all just a disgusting charade. There has never been a truth/justice/reconciliation conducted anywhere in the world where the old regime remains in power. In NI’s case, the old military, political and intelligence establishment remains in place with the additional complication that the leaders of the murder gangs were injected into local administrative power after the murder campaign ended. Unsurprisingly, none of these parties wish to see their roles examined or to be held accountable for their crimes and so they inevitably veto any such process.

    The good folks in NI knew that the victims would be shafted if their victimisers were injected into the political process so they’d rather the victims just shut up about it so they don’t have to feel guilty for endorsing the state’s settlement program.

  • Mick Fealty

    A few bedraggled thoughts before bed…

    – It strikes me there’s a certain consonance between the idea of ‘equality of victimhood’ and ‘flat taxes’… in the sense that each is an idea that’s most popular amongst those who would likely have pay most to in proportion to their ‘relative wealth’…

    – I’m struggling to get clarity on the idea that your motive conditions your status as a victim. It’s clear in some cases (like a nurse, doctor, fireman, paramedic or ambulance driver) that you might qualify for ‘full status’. I don’t want to get into citing individual case studies but surely willing participants might be registered as less of a victim than the people they killed if only for the simplest reason that they were motivated hand were prepared to take the risk involved in rebellion/revolution? It also so happens that many of those willing participants, one way or another, are already memorialised for the ‘heroic endeavours’, whereas many of their victims are not.

    – Alias makes an interesting point which is worth reiterating to the effect that a hierarchy of victims is crucial to the smooth running of normal society. In the Republic, it is only in living memory that they took the death penalty off the statute book for the killing of a Guard. This was a very specific sanction intended to underline Weber’s concept of the state’s monopoly of force (H/T Phil for the reference btw!)

    – Not now John makes a good point in that the legislation has been set and is not going to change. I agree we should not waste energy on things that cannot, or unlikely to have a clear and desirable solution. I also agree single cases make poor policy. But there is a current and future element to these problems that should be given some concern. The terrible situation people in Creggan are suffering because the legal and justice is held in such contempt.

    – Which segues neatly in to The Dissenter’s point that “constructive ambiguity of the political settlement has now descended into moral ambiguity”… It might be argued that that moral ambiguity is acting as a behavioural escape hatches for some parts of society that reconciliation has not yet arrived at…

  • galloglaigh


    Your comment has been the most objective of all on this thread (that doesn’t mean mine will be). I was watching last night, and was impressed, not only by the caller Jude, but by the 17 year old.

    Jude showed the courage to support Eibhlin Glenholmes. As he says, people like her work night and day to ensure peace and stability. Eibhlin Glenholmes has never been convicted of any offence. She might well have been on active duty, and all that is involved with that. Indeed this is something she might well share with loyalist and security force members, who might also be on the panel. That is a fair assumption to make. Take it how you will.

    The 17 year old is right that we have to move on. He also shows courage by looking at the bigger picture. I’d agree with him that it’s narrow to view only one set of victims as legitimate. Willie Frazer is an example of this. You could bunch many unionists in that pile. That is a fair assumption to make. Take that how you will.

    Just to put a spin on it though – It sorta evens up the notion of unicorn Catholics. But that’s for another day.

  • galloglaigh

    As for Nesbitt, he showed weakness when all he had to offer the 17 year old, was that the ceasefires were older than him. I think Alex Maskey gave him the due respect he deserved. Maskey’s a very astute thinker. He’s miles ahead of Nesbitt.

  • Mick Fealty

  • Mick Fealty

  • Granni Trixie

    I respect Brendan Mcallister infact I have long thought “why was he not appointed as the sole VC? But I do not agree that “the law makes no moral judgements “..what is the law if not a moral system?
    Strikes me also that what we are discussing here is moral relativism
    “it was my culture made me do it”.

    also think that whilst there ought to be no hierarchy of need (there are no Catholic tears or Protestant tears) there has to be some difference in culpability. From all that I have read about the Shankill Butchers for instance they were sycophantic murderers but operating with impunity for much of their ‘career’.

  • Mick Fealty

    In the strictest sense he is right about the law on this occasion. It quite specifically says in respect to victims of the troubles there is no hierarchy of victims.

    Under the terms of the law that means the psychopaths are victims every bit as much as the men, women or children they may have killed or maimed.

  • cynic2

    “What decision on the Ballymurphy 7”

    That even though 30 years have elapsed they can still sue for damages.

    So perhaps it is time to now bring it on and do an Omagh on others?

  • “It might be argued that that moral ambiguity is acting as a behavioural escape hatches for some parts of society that reconciliation has not yet arrived at…” Not sure what this means. What or who is being reconciled to who or what? The problem with ambiguity is that it removes responsibility, not just in taking responsibility for actions, but also in being responsible for moving on.

    The main point though is that if, according to SF everyone is equal, we’re all responsible, we’re all victims, then what is the point of a ‘truth commission’ etc. Accept that, park it, move on.

  • Barnshee

    Sure –Loughgall “martyrs” out on a murder rampage and Kathryn Aiken (age 8) blown to pieces whilst cleaning a shop window are all equall as victims??

    What happened concepts like innocence
    Or indeed the concept that you are the victim of /contributed to your situation via your own actions?

    The idea that perpetrator and victim have equal status is an insult to the victims -Pass the sick bag Alice-

    First highlight the childen, then the shoppers attacked -then people blown up going about their day to day lives -add in those murdered attending social events.

    Tell me again that the Armani clad perpetrators of these events are “victims” as they suck on the (Bitiish) Public sector teat whilst the victims of their action rot prematurely in their grave

  • DC

    In the strictest sense he is right about the law on this occasion. It quite specifically says in respect to victims of the troubles there is no hierarchy of victims.

    That isn’t exactly correct, the definition of the law was framed so that it avoided there *being* a hierachy of victims –

    The legal definition of a “victim” in Northern Ireland, as adopted by the Consultative Group, is contained within in the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006,
    passed at Westminster before the resumption of devolved government in May 2007.

    It classifies a “victim” 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. 48

    There was cross-party acknowledgement that the definition, while presenting a challenge for the people of Northern Ireland, was the only way to avoid a “hierarchy of

    The dictionary definition:



    1.A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.
    2.A person who is tricked or duped: “the victim of a hoax”.

  • Neil

    People keep going back to the dead terrorist vs dead victim argument, but as Bradley states on Nolan, this discussion relates to the living. The victims being those left behind, the dead can neither be compensated nor can they contribute further to the situation. Which is why people find it vexing as it’s not dead terrorist vs dead victim but the bereaved relatives of both who will be compensated, who can contribute information to the process.

  • DC

    It is still a definition made expressly in the avoidance of something.

  • Barnshee

    “The victims being those left behind, ”
    Fine -in what way -if any- did they contribute personally to their “victimhood”?

  • DT123

    Were there many ex Nazis sitting as judges at the Nuremburg trials?


    As Neil points out, this is not about dead victims. There are no dead victims under the definition used in the legislation. Neither is it about truth or about justice or about dealing with the past (whatever that means); it is about the needs of victims. If one happens to have blown off a leg while planting a bomb then one is entitled to free treatment on the NHS, one is entitled to high rate disability allowance and one is entitled to free prescriptions. Is that what Mike Nesbitt really has an issue about? The fact that the likes of the NHS and the SSA do not differentiate between ‘perpetrators’ and ‘victims’?

    Not only is about the needs of victims, it is about the particular needs of victims and their particular circumstances; the kind of needs that the public service deliverers may not be immediately aware of and which the likes of Eibhlin Glenholmes may be able to help identify and provide some perspective on in the forum. I expect that is why she has been appointed.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “that they were motivated hand were prepared to take the risk”

    Pacifist have that reasonable point of view that one should never fight. Once you are motivated to fight no matter the reason you are wrong.

    Once you allow that fighting is a reasonable occupation depending on circumstances then what motivates you is central.

    In Robert Graves account of ww1 he recalls (if I remember correctly/along the lines of) not wanting to shoot a man in the bath but waited till he got out. I am sure neither party elected to be stuck in the middle of a war? Is shooting someone because you think its your duty wrong? Graves was not at the front nor did he stay there because it was something he wanted to do but that is the situation in which society placed him.

  • Mick Fealty


    I can never find my copy of Graves biography when I look for it (I bought it the day Margaret Thatcher resigned).

    I can’t remember much about the book, other than how he talks about the esprit d’corps of the Guards having something to do with higher survival rates than other regiments.

    But that’s very useful.

  • Mick Fealty


    I agree with you (as you might guess from the blog post above) on most of that.

    However it is also possible to allow for a separate discourse where the term victim can own the fuller meaning of the word and most certainly includes those who were killed.

    And in which the killer (many of whom are actually now dead themselves) and his/her actual victims are considered in quite separate terms.

    By the lights of that separate discourse, the law might be seen as a necessary and pragmatic, but when put to any other purpose, an ass.

    It certainly need not restrict citizens’ access to redress for the situation they’ve been put in by the actions of others.

  • Zig70

    A victims process with no perpetrators? Seems odd. Few things struck me watching Nolan. The level of evidence required to believe guilt is very low, “In the papers”. So who is seen as the guilty? the other side? Hierarchy of victim, hierarchy of guilt. I don’t see an end game and it strikes me as an awkward mix of shameful cold war point scoring and deep human suffering.
    The current legal system has a process to deal with victims of standard crimes and it rarely satisfies the desire for a pound of flesh.

  • galloglaigh

    Just a thought DC:



    1.A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.

    Surely Sean Kelly falls under that definition? He was killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action, namely his own bomb.

  • DC

    Yes and would merit no further action other than recognition of him being a victim of his own handy work.

  • DC

    Btw I just put the dictionary definition up there as a compare and contrast – but based on your example you can see what happens whenever there is no hierarchy of victims 🙂

  • ranger1640

    Here is the view of a real victim. However due to her anti sinn fein rhetoric, they will obviously brand her as opposed to their cliched peace process.

    Sinn Fein victim status for Butchers ‘is barmy’

  • ranger1640

    The last couple of sentences are crucial.

    “Victims and survivors of terrorism throughout Europe and America will share their experience and discuss best practices around the EU on the legal, health care and social and psychological support to victims of terrorism, from the public and private organisations focused on supporting victims of terrorism and from the associations of victims of terrorism.

    “We will be expressing solidarity will all victims of terrorism, especially those who are suffering in Syria.”

    No mention of conflict put terror, and no mention of the perpetrators, just the real victims.

    Full article below.

    Beirut hostage Terry Waite will be a guest speaker at an international victims of terror conference in Northern Ireland this week.
    It is being held in Omagh, where 29 people died in a Real IRA car bomb blast in 1998. Stephen Travers, survivor of the Miami Showband Massacre by loyalists, will also address delegates from across Europe and America.

    The conference aims to discuss and share lessons learned by victims’ organisations. The meeting will be held on June 12 and 13 and is the first time the event has taken place in Ireland.

    Michael Gallagher from the Omagh Support and Self Help Group said: “Victims and survivors of terrorism throughout Europe and America will share their experience and discuss best practices around the EU on the legal, health care and social and psychological support to victims of terrorism, from the public and private organisations focused on supporting victims of terrorism and from the associations of victims of terrorism.

    “We will be expressing solidarity will all victims of terrorism, especially those who are suffering in Syria.”

    The conference will take place at the Ulster American Folk Park.

    Read more:

  • Taoiseach

    No hierarchy. The word “victim” implies innocence. People killed by their own bombs, people who set out to kill other innocents aren’t victims in any meaningful sense.