Evaluating the Peace

Seán Brennan, from QUB, evaluates the state of our current peace… As the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement (GFA) approaches, much talk will focus on celebrating or condemning – in other words evaluating – our ‘peace process’. When evaluating Northern Ireland’s experience of peace, it may surprise some to learn that our experiences are not universally viewed as a success. In fact, it would be fair to say the ‘liberal peace’ – which is what we have … Read more

Courage of Kingsmills Victims Defied Sectarian Divide

Reconciliation statue Photo by Amanda Slater

Much ink has been spilled about the sorry Barry McElduff/Kingsmills loaf saga. Susan McKay’s analysis in Tuesday’s Irish Times is one of the most insightful, but bleak, contributions. It’s worth reading her full text, which brings her to this conclusion: The absence of reconciliation has never been more starkly apparent, and as usual, those most hurt in the past are hurt again. One paragraph in McKay’s article jumped out for me, because though tragic, it demonstrated for me that there … Read more

Breaking the logjam on legacy issues – Discussion this Friday as part of Feile an Phobail…

Dealing with our past, never mind healing its wounds, has been an ongoing challenge since the signing of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement nearly twenty years ago.  So far our politicians have not been able to form a consensus on how best to address the past. In the absence of any formal political agreement, it’s crucial to keep the conversation going and to provide platforms for people from different backgrounds to offer their perspectives on the issues, and to challenge existing … Read more

21 flavours of ice-cream. The murder of Constable John Larmour…

I came across this video browsing Brian John Spencers Youtube channel. Here is some background to the story from the Irish News and the Belfast Telegraph: Constable John Larmour was off-duty and helping out at his brother’s ice-cream parlour in south Belfast when he was shot dead by the IRA in 1988. Two men entered, unmasked, ordered ice cream, and then one of them shot him as he turned his back on him. Constable Larmour’s son Gavin, who was just 13 … Read more

What if tens of thousands of “Troubles” victims were to litigate?

This is an interesting development. One case is neither here nor there. But considering the death count of the Troubles is a fraction of those seriously injured the whole judicial system could face meltdown if others were to follow in any great number… “More than 300,000 servicemen and women served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles,” he said. “If every one of those made a complaint to the PSNI about attempted murders, how do you think the PSNI would manage? … Read more

A view on the Loyalist Community Council by one of their Victims…

Last week marked the 21st Anniversary of the Ceasefire declared by the Combined Loyalist Military Command.  It was heralded as an end to decades of Loyalist violence.  Earlier that year I met a handful of their colleagues who entered my home one evening and proceeded to empty the contents of a sub-machine gun into my body: all because I was a defenceless ‘innocent’ Taig.  I emphasise the word innocent because that was the point: the more innocent and defenceless the … Read more

Who is a victim? The tricky issue of defining victims of the troubles…

September 1st marked the first full day in the job for the new Victims Commissioner, Judith Thompson.  There is no doubt that she will have an overflowing inbox on her desk as it has been well over a year since her predecessor, Kathryn Stone, moved on.  I suspect one of the first requests she will have to deal with is the annual call to change the actual definition of a victim as set out in Westminster statute. Ever since The Victims … Read more

A victims view on the appointment of the new Commissioner for Victims and Survivors…

I would like to thank the oFM/dFM for finally agreeing on a new Commissioner for Victims and Survivors.  It has been over a year since Kathryn Stone stood down from this position: a position which is an integral cog in the structures set up to deal with the needs of those of us most affected by the years of political conflict. The Victims Commission was hamstrung by the absence of a figurehead, as was the Victims Forum.  Both bodies could … Read more

Derrylin to host hunger strike commemoration

The 2014 National Hunger Strike Commemoration has been announced to be in Derrylin Co. Fermanagh this year complete with buses to the event. Diane Woods the niece of local IRA murder victims Thomas and Emily Bullock told the Belfast Telegraph she felt sick at the prospect. From the Belfast Telegraph: A gang of up to six masked men carried out the brutal attack on Mr and Mrs Bullock. They arrived at the isolated farmhouse in Aghalane just outside Derrylin at … Read more

Victims of Gadaffi’s arms imports to the IRA shouldn’t get their hopes up

This is one of the most acute problems of Northern Ireland today- politicians raising hopes for victims that stand little or no chance of being fulfilled. As an anti-cynic I’m prepared to believe that David Cameron’s meeting with a DUP delegation over reviving compensation claims against Libya disclosed in the Sunday Telegraph wasn’t just a clumsy diversion effort from the Adams arrest (wrong constituency and timing ).At least it got Peter Robinson into Downing St, a rare occurrence these days.   It reads like … Read more

Dealing with the past. Inquiries are over. The politicians must come clean. It’s time to stop paying lip service to victims.

You can’t say she’s not even handed . Theresa Villiers will not allow case reviews or inquiries into the Ballymurphy massacre and the la Mon atrocity. She says sorry to the victims but it’s not in the public interest. That’s it. It’s about time the penny dropped. After the de Silva review which exposed a long catalogue  of collusion, there will be no further inquiries or reviews in the lifetime of this coalition government. Mrs Finucane will continue legal process as far … Read more

#Villiers, re-hashing Larkin and victim typologies

If nothing else, Theresa Villiers statement on power-sharing contains some odd language (see the first quote Mick has cited here).  The nuances in “…there are inherent weaknesses in a system in which it is very difficult to remove one’s rulers by voting and to choose a viable alternative…” actually jar with the mother-and-apple-pie follow-up about about consistency with power-sharing and inclusivity.  A central tenet of democracy is that voting in elections removes ‘rulers’ and replaces them with whoever gets elected … Read more

“That’s the only way I can put,” he said “they sleep with the victims.”

I was struck by Michael D Higgins’ interview with the BBC’s Fergal Keane: He said he could not ask the families of victims to put the past behind them. Society could not afford to wipe out the memory of violence, he said. “I think that there is very significant work to do,” he said. “Affecting a kind of amnesia is of no value to you. You are better to honestly deal with the facts that are standing behind you as … Read more

Truth or justice: Highly unlikely that most us will ever have either…

Riffing of Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe, Seamus comes up with an argument you sense has been much talked about under wraps but which no one has the political strength (rather than confidence) to ask for: The only legitimate way to end yet more years of speculation and anguish for the McConville family is for the governments of Ireland and Britain to agree a general amnesty that will allow all participants to the conflict, willing or otherwise, to give … Read more

Forget ethnic thematics: a straightforward response to Billy Hutchinson

Billy Hutchinson’s explanation for his sectarian murders has been covered below by David McCann. Unfortunately they degenerate into concepts like “Truth recovery”, “ethnic thematics” and such like. The News Letter have provided somewhat more direct responses. From the News Letter: Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said that Mr Hutchinson’s attempted justification of his murders “bore all the hallmarks of the same sick delusional thinking that is prevalent within the republican movement”. Referring to the UVF slogan ‘For God and … Read more

Pitch for a selective ‘use of immunity’ sets Sinn Fein at odds with victims groups

Declan Kearney’s blog over at the BelTel on the Secretary of State’s 7th March speech is worth highlighting for a number of reasons. One, it comes a full seven days after the Villiers speech. And two the argument begins with an odd reference to ‘narrative’: By setting out the primacy of a single narrative, and rejecting the use of immunity as one instrument to assist in dealing with the past, the British Government has come out against the Haass compromises. … Read more

TUV, SDLP and UUP host victims commemoration at Stormont

Alan has a post on the Alternative Ms. Ulster event hosted by Steven Agnew at Stormont on Sunday complete with the inspiring / daring / indecent, speech/ behaviour by Ms. Park. In contrast yesterday the UUP, SDLP and TUV hosted the third annual day of remembrance for victims of terrorism. 120 people attended and three people spoke: Michelle Nixon who has been caring for her brother since he was seriously injured in 1979 by an IRA bomb in Rosslea; June … Read more

Not a cosy conversation: Victims and survivors conference

The Commission for Victims and Survivors (CVS) convened a conference “to listen to as many voices as possible” in forming its advice to the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, the CVS Commissioner Kathryn Stone explained. The event was well attended by a couple hundred delegates, representing the broad spectrum from Northern Ireland’s Troubles; but remarkably absent were politicians. https://soundcloud.com/mrulster/20140225-cvs-01-kathryn-stone?in=mrulster/sets/20140225-cvs-conference Commissioner Stone quoted the Haass-O’Sullivan published draft document, in regards to the leadership role demonstrated to date … Read more

Victim-Centred Justice: Beyond the Rhetoric

By Luke Moffett and Kieran McEvoy INTRODUCTION There has been much said about victims in recent months in Northern Ireland, particularly in relation to the Haass negotiations on flags, parades, and dealing with the past. Perhaps the phrase most used is that any process to deal with the past in Northern Ireland has to be ‘victim-centred’. Although the view that the process should be ‘victim-centred’ is laudable, there has been little said as to what this will mean in practice. … Read more

Victims’ Commissioner sets herself against victims

Sam McBride from the News Letter has a series of articles interviewing Kathyrn Stone the relatively new victims’ commissioner in which she has expressed views likely to undermine her role as a spokesperson for victims. Stone’s problems seem to come from refusing to state an opinion on some of the most basic of issues relating to victims. Ms Stone declined to say whether the IRA, which killed 1,706 people, or the UVF, which killed 430, were terrorists. When asked whether, … Read more