3/09/2006

Victims - What is the way forward?

I'm just after watching this month's Let's Talk where the issues of victims was discussed. This is a particularly topical issue because of the Facing the Truth series where victims and perpetrators met face to face to discuss the conflict and their reactions to it.

I thought it was a very interesting debate. I knew one of the speakers and there was a wide range of viewpoints on show. Opinion seemed divided on many issues including whether a Truth and Reconcilliation forum would be useful and even what a victim actually meant. Willie Frazer had a his usual tuppence worth of bigotry and tried to claim that Republicans thought that they had a monopoly on victimhood. Of course this is a hypocritical nonsense from a man who claims to be a spokesperson for victims but in reality cares for little other than his secterian agenda.

I'm unsure whether this society is ready for a Truth and Reconciliation forum but I do think that in principle it is a good idea. Too many people still labour under the sadness of not knowing how their loved one's died, who committed the killings and for what reason.

However I do believe that any forum for Truth and Reconcilliation is doomed unless it adheres to a number of key principles.

Firstly it must be clear from the start that there is no hierarchy of victims. All victims must be treated equally whether they be Protestant or Catholic, Nationalist or Unionist, Republican or Loyalist.

Also the forum must be as willing to deal with victims of Security force collusion as with the victims of Republican violence.

Unless those who were involved in the conflict are willing to be up front and honest about their actions and experiences, the whole project is pointless. British forces must not be able to hide the truth in the manner which they have attempted to do over the last 30 years. However Republicans have to accept this level of openess as well.

The process must also be victims based and must be about addressing the grievances and needs of the victims rather than providing an opportunity for political mud slinging. Many victims only want the truth so that they can finally put the issue to bed and hopefully get on with their lives.

I realise this is a highly controversial and emotive issue but even if it can never be resolved to everybody's satisfaction, surely there is a duty to try?

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