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Victim of The Troubles: We are living scars on society

A report by Amnesty International has strongly criticised attempts to deal with the events of the past and provide answers for victims and their families.

This image shows the names of the victims shot dead on Bloody Sunday in 1972.
This image shows the names of the victims shot dead on Bloody Sunday in 1972.
Image: Peter Morrison/AP

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS said that victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland are being ‘disgracefully let down’ by a flawed and fragmented approach to dealing with the past.

The organisation made its comments in a report due to be launched today. It blames the failure to deliver truth and justice on a lack of political will from both the British government and Northern Ireland’s political policies.

The 78-page report found that victims of the conflict and their families have been failed by successive attempts to investigate abuses and that the approach to dealing with the past has contributed to the division that still exists.

‘We need to have it recognised that we suffered’

During The Troubles in Northern Ireland, more than 3,600 people were killed and more than 40,000 injured and in most cases, no one has ever been held responsible.

Peter Heathwood was shot and left paralysed in an attack on his home by suspected loyalists gunmen in September 1979. His father died of a heart attack at the scene. Commenting before the launch of the report he said:

People say let’s forget about the past and move on, it was 30 years ago. That’s a load of bunkum. In Northern Ireland the past is the present. If we don’t deal with the past, I don’t want my grandchildren to have to suffer this again. As injured people, we are living scars in society and we need to have it recognised that we have suffered.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland said that the victims were “disgracefully let down” and that there is a cruel irony in the fact that Northern Ireland is held up as a success story when many victims’ families actually consider their treatment a failure.

‘Waiting for us to die out’

James Miller, whose grandfather David Miller was among nine people killed in a suspected IRA bomb attack in Claudy in 1972, said:

It’s said they are waiting for us to die out. But the next generation will still keep asking questions about what happened. Look at me, it was my grandfather who was killed and I am still going to keep asking for the truth.

The report finds that although numerous different mechanisms exist, the limitations of each process have meant they cannot provide the full truth about human rights abuses committed by all sides during three decades of political violence.

It also claimed that families have been failed by processes conducted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Historical Enquiries Team, the Office of the Police Ombudsman and various coroners’ inquests; “each of which had a narrow remit and often left families with more questions than answers”.

Amnesty International is now calling for a comprehensive mechanism to be set up to review the conflict, establish the truth about outstanding human rights violations and determine responsibility.

Read: Police call for calm as threat issued to Belfast schools>

Read: ‘No confidence’ in leadership of PSNI unit reviewing unsolved Troubles murders>

Column: The victims of the Troubles were not ‘collateral damage’ and they deserve justice>

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