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:

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