Victims: Peace II Programme

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:00 am on 3rd April 2001.

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Photo of Mr Denis Haughey Mr Denis Haughey Social Democratic and Labour Party 12:00 am, 3rd April 2001

I beg to move

That this Assembly welcomes the inclusion of a specific measure for victims in the European Peace II programme.

I welcome this chance to draw attention to the real opportunities that the Peace II funding provides for victims. It is significant that a specific measure has been developed to which only individual victims and victims’ groups will have access.

The funding package amounts to approximately £6·67 million, and it will provide significant additional resources to this important and often marginalised section of society. Peace II funding will allow important work to be taken forward in a range of areas but will concentrate on reskilling, retraining and re-employment, so that those who have often been excluded from education and employment opportunities will benefit most.

The Peace II funding should also be seen in the context of the overall funding package available for victims. The Victims Unit in the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister allocated £420,000 in the past financial year to several projects and initiatives.

In the next few days my Colleague Minister Nesbitt and myself will meet our Northern Ireland Office counterpart, Mr Adam Ingram MP, to discuss the allocation of £9 million of funding recently announced by his Department. It is vital that we work with him on this issue and that funding is targeted in a meaningful way at the most important areas.

The £6·67 million provided for victims in the Peace II package is an important part of the total package of targeted funding and gives a clear indication of the Executive’s desire to tackle the issues in a proactive manner. I look forward to a positive discussion and debate on these matters, and I know that everyone present will welcome this very important step in addressing the needs of victims.

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

I welcome the announcement as a positive step towards recognising the needs of people hurt so badly by the troubles. The European Union has a vital role to play in this process not just in the short term but for many years to come. The needs of victims and their families cannot be resolved in the short term. It is a long and painful process that will continue many years after the majority of Assembly Members have gone. That has been the experience in other parts of the world where conflict caused suffering and hardship to many people, but the conflict cannot, and will not, continue.

The peace that we now enjoy has been inspired in many ways by the European experience dating back not just to the second world war but for many years beyond that. We all have some experience of the suffering endured over the years by people from all sections of the community. In a graveyard near my home there is an inscription on a tombstone which reads "An innocent victim of the troubles". People in the future will, without doubt, read that inscription and understand to a point. However, they can never really understand the suffering or the needs of the people who were affected. They will not know that family life for everyone in that house was turned upside down. Their lives, their careers and their plans for the future were shattered. Even today, they are struggling to rebuild what was destroyed a few years ago. Assistance to retrain and reskill is critical for this family and for many other families affected during the 30 years of the troubles.

Mr Haughey’s announcement today about funding is a recognition which will assist the needs of the victims in a very positive way. That was a promise made, and I am more than pleased that it has now been honoured. It is the first milestone on a long and torturous road for people. That road will have many corners and many hazards. I hope that in the future the European Peace II programme will continue to support those victims as they put their lives together again and face the future. The victims cannot be left behind. We have a duty as politicians to help them on their way. There is, as I have said, a notion that victims can be given a quick fix, a cheque in the post. Such notions are not only mistaken but also insulting to those who matter most — the victims.

Today there is a recognition that the process includes resources to retrain, reskill and rebuild lives. Let us hope that we can build on our experience to ensure that this support is used wisely and in consultation with those who need it, and those for whom it was intended. Above all, let us be aware that it is only a beginning. No one should be surprised if, in the distant future, politicians are still coping with the hurt caused during the troubles. The hurt has been great for all our people, and the healing process has to be inclusive. To address the problem in a selective or divisive way would only delay the whole process of reconciliation.

Today’s announcement is a very positive step. It is a recognition that people’s lives were turned upside down by the troubles and that there is now a caring Assembly which, with the support of European funding, is prepared to help those people to rebuild their lives and to assist them on the journey onwards. This is a historic day for the Assembly and an important day for the European Union as a whole. I particularly welcome the announcement.

Photo of Paul Berry Paul Berry DUP 10:45 am, 3rd April 2001

I have an interest — like many in the Chamber — in this subject because not only had I a relative murdered by terrorists but I saw at first hand the difficulty that real victims have in getting financial help following their loss. In February, the Assembly was told by the First Minister, Mr Trimble, that, under the Peace II programme, victims of violence and ex-prisoners will be regarded as target groups for assistance. The EU programme will also include a specific measure for victims, with funding of approximately £6·6 million. Our MEPs also need to be praised for the work and effort that they have put in to secure this money.

There is a very serious anomaly. Far too often victims and ex-prisoners are included together. There are far more ex-prisoners’ groups — which exist to milk this system — than there are victims’ groups. When we hear that millions of pounds will be available for this section as a whole, it does not necessarily mean that the victims will get the lion’s share of the money. Several months ago a question was put by Mr Dodds to the Minister of Finance and Personnel, Mr Durkan, about £6 million being allocated to ex-prisoners’ groups. Some £4·5 million of that came from the EU peace money and £1·5 million came from the Government.

There is a genuine need to ensure that the real victims receive money. That is evident when we see the ability of numerous groups to apply for, or claim, money on spurious grounds. For example, huge sums of money have been paid out by the Ministry of Defence for alleged injury, for the death of animals, or for the loss of, or damage to, silage in the border areas due to helicopter activity. Money has been squandered throughout the whole system. The money must now be very much focused on the innocent victims. The vast numbers of fraudulent claims serve to confirm that there is an indisputable danger of giving taxpayers’ money to fraudsters. We see that also in the huge sums that were paid to the Ex-Prisoners Interpretive Centre (EPIC) — an organisation funded to deal with ex-prisoners.

These points all raise crucial questions. How many of those groups that have sprung up over the last decade, claiming to deal with all kinds of people related to the troubles, are legitimate? I refer Members to one group in the Maze Prison which received money for a fly-fishing course. It is not rocket science to realise that all too often there are scams of one sort or another being carried out. Undoubtedly, Republicans will moan that we are claiming there to be, and creating, a hierarchy of suffering. One thing is clear: the grief of those whose relatives were brutally murdered by terrorists is not the same as that of those who cry over terrorists who were killed. If the latter have any grief, it ought to be only for those whom their terrorist friends killed.

I wrote numerous letters on the subject to the Minister then responsible for victims’ issues, Mr Adam Ingram. I have also put many questions to the two junior Ministers, who are present today. One of the things that stand out from raising the issue with Mr Ingram is the uncertainty of funding for the victims year after year. By contrast, there is no shortage of money for those who created the victims in the first place. That too is a source of anguish among victims’ support groups.

Another issue must be addressed, and I trust that the junior Ministers will take it on board today. It is that of the widows of UDR and RIR personnel, who have been overlooked in all of this. It is imperative that they be included as well. We welcome the additional money that was provided for the RUC widows. People whose loved ones were murdered because they were members of the UDR or RIR were very concerned at being treated differently. There should be equal recognition for all those in the security forces. We trust that UDR and RIR widows will be highlighted under this programme.

The notion that you can treat the victims and perpetrators of violence equally concerns me. That philosophy underlies much of the money that is being distributed under the peace and reconciliation fund. It is a clear signal of moral bankruptcy. It is my contention that there is no equivalence between them.

I am also concerned that because we have Sinn Féin/IRA sitting in government their influence will extend to ensuring that their own political clique gets more recognition than the real victims. Even though they jump up and down proclaiming how much they care about victims, the reality is that, under their ideology, even terrorists are victims. This aims to overthrow all right thinking. It is the old idea of calling evil good.

There is a very real concern that money earmarked for victims should go to the real victims. It should not go to people whom political correctness deems appropriate.

I trust that we will get assurances from the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and the junior Ministers that innocent victims will be catered for and that they will receive the funding they need and deserve. We are all aware of the suffering and anguish that has been caused over the past 30 years or more by the loss of loved ones who have been tragically and evilly taken away. I also trust we can be assured that innocent victims will not be provided for under the same banner as ex-prisoners’ groups.

It is a matter of great concern. We have raised it in the past and will continue to raise it. I trust that the junior Ministers will take up with the relevant Ministers the points that I have raised today, for it is not only a matter of funding for the victims. Many times we have heard that it is not just a matter of money: it is also a matter of justice.

There have been many murders in the area I represent — South Armagh — and other border areas. When I raised the issue of an inquiry with the Security Minister, Mr Adam Ingram, he replied to me on 13 March 2001 saying that an inquiry would be counterproductive and would jeopardise the investigations. As I said earlier, this is not just about funding; it is also about justice. Mr Ingram went on to say that the perpetrators of all unsolved murders in Northern Ireland should be brought to justice. I find it very sad that the perpetrators are being funded by the Government and by the Assembly. All these points need to be taken on board. Not only does funding need to be provided but justice needs to be seen to be done in this country.

Photo of Eileen Bell Eileen Bell Alliance

It will come as no surprise to anyone in the Assembly that I welcome the motion. I have worked with victims for the last 20 or 30 years and I know that this will be an encouragement to them.

Soon after the ceasefires were announced in 1994 I talked to several women from all parts of the community who had lost relatives through violent deaths. They hoped that the acknowledgement of their loss and the trauma of their experiences, and those of the many like them, would now be made in an open and appropriate manner.

Some years on, after the Good Friday Agreement and the referendum, I spoke to the same people again and they made exactly the same point. However, they made it in a much more cynical way. I have worked with groups, organisations and individuals who have been concerned by the apparent inaction and total disinterest in their plight and the plight of all those who were affected by the troubles.

I am sure that people have heard the word "acknowledgement" many times. These women have been concerned about that, as opposed to the high profile they have seen given regularly to prisoners, for whatever justifiable reasons.

The Victims Liaison Unit has done a very good job in encouraging and bringing together organisations and groups that work with victims and for victims. The Bloomfield Report highlighted the problems faced by victims. Many publications about the troubles and their victims recount horrific stories. All victims display admirable tolerance. However, there are always comments on the lack of acknowledgement and often the lack of interest from politicians and the public for victims. While compiling his report, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield spoke of the great sympathy he felt for the victims whose stories he was told and of his admiration for how those people had reacted and coped with the horrific events in their lives.

The Victims Liaison Unit was set up to implement the recommendations made in the Bloomfield Report ‘We Will Remember Them’. The unit has done a great deal of good in bringing victims groups and individuals together, assessing needs and developing the Government’s policy towards victims and survivors. It also set up Touchstone, the umbrella group for victims’ organisations. The unit runs seminars and conferences with the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust to highlight and discuss situations in these most sensitive areas. It also funds projects, including the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund, which provide bursaries to dependants. This work must be carried on, as I am sure it will be by the Victims Unit with assistance from the Victims Liaison Unit

The recently established Victims Unit, which is in the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, is working with the Victims Liaison Unit to improve the situation of those most recently affected by the troubles in a practical way. I believe that Mr McGrady said that the Victims Unit is committed to improving services to victims by 2002.

Peace II moneys will undoubtedly play a significant part in meeting this challenge, and it is fitting that the European Union continues to play a direct supporting role in this area of regeneration.

It is essential that the standards of provision be assessed and that financial assistance be allocated where it is most needed. I hope that the Victims Unit and the Victims Liaison Unit will do that. The £420,000 announced by the junior Ministers last week was welcome, and the promise of another £9 million will go some way towards addressing the needs of victims and their organisations with basic measures such as counselling, befriending, retraining and community unemployment projects.

There has been talk of a hierarchy of victims. In fact, there has been talk this morning of "innocent" victims, and I am still trying to figure out exactly what that means. Regardless of the definitions given by others we should not allow the needs and hopes of those who have already been disadvantaged by acts of terror and sectarianism to be curtailed by manipulation. The Bloomfield Report said that victims are those people — men, women and children — directly affected by the troubles. It is not for us to determine degrees of victims or to monopolise victims. We should never let victims become pawns in a political game — as many of them fear they are.

The Assembly should pledge itself to ensuring that all victims are treated with trust and care and are given practical, relevant help to achieve their aims and to take advantage of every opportunity. Victims should have easy access to information on finance, counselling, medical help and other support as necessary. It may well be that a victims’ minister will have to be appointed, but at the moment we need to look to the junior Ministers, who have been tasked with this responsibility. I know they are committed to victims, and the Committee of the Centre will work with them.

Peace II money and other measures will contribute to an open acknowledgement of the price victims have paid. It will provide the Government and other involved bodies with the finance to allow the furtherance of such projects that will help victims enjoy full citizenship in the new Northern Ireland that we all hope for and are working towards. We must address the legacy of the conflict. We must do it for all victims and we must do it together.

Photo of Mr Norman Boyd Mr Norman Boyd NIUP

I welcome the fact that financial assistance will be given to the innocent victims of terrorism, but there are several points that need to be clarified regarding the claim that there are specific measures for victims in the European Peace II programme. There is no specific definition of "victim" in the programme. The term is used to mean many things to many people. Mrs Bell made light of the term "innocent victim". However, it is essential that a distinction be made between innocent victims of terrorism and those who were clearly involved in terrorist acts, who, regrettably are also described by many as victims.

It is morally wrong and an insult to the many innocent victims when they are referred to by some in authority in the same manner as those who committed the very heinous acts against them and their families. The needs of innocent victims should be addressed, and not simply in monetary terms as some Members appear to believe.

The First Minister, in an article in the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ at the weekend, claimed that they had been attempting to address the needs of the bereaved and injured. That is an insult to the many innocent victims.

The First Minister and other pro-Agreement Members have caused untold hurt to the innocent victims of terrorism by endorsing the release of prisoners who are guilty of the most heinous of crimes and supporting an amnesty for those convicted of terrorist acts. The First Minister has also supported their elevation into the very heart of the Government.

For the First Minister and others to refer in their recent publication to a one-stop shop for victims is insensitive and indeed an insult. The attitude that innocent victims can be bought off with a monetary payment is adding insult to injury. The First Minister’s claim that he is championing a public inquiry into IRA/Garda collusion rings hollow, considering his support for the early release of terrorist prisoners and an amnesty for convicted terrorists. In the words of Mrs Sylvia Callaghan, whose son was murdered in the Ballykelly bombing,

"Any deal that benefits terrorists by putting them in positions of authority in our land is an insult to the memory of my son, murdered by the people the authorities are now falling over themselves to placate."

The most important step that the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister could take to ease the pain of the innocent victims is to endorse the exclusion of Sinn Féin/IRA from government. It would also be a positive gesture to the victims if the First Minister were to donate his Nobel Peace Prize money to the innocent victims rather than retain it for himself. I call on him today in this Chamber to do so without further delay.

The innocent victims in the Unionist community have little confidence in the administration of EU funding by the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust (NIVT). Payments to terrorist prisoners between 1995 and 1999 under the European Union Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation amounted to more than £6 million. Under the Peace II programme, £6·7 million has been given out for victims, and £6 million was also given for prisoners under Peace I. How much will be given to prisoners under the Peace II programme?

The grants in the Peace I programme were used to provide education and training, resource centres, minibuses for prison visits — including training of drivers to gain their HGV licences — guitar and yoga lessons. This was all for prisoners in the Maze prison; a computer was also provided for female prisoners in Maghaberry prison. This is disgraceful; the funding would have been better spent on the innocent victims of terrorist violence who have suffered throughout the last 30 years.

To compound the hurt even further, NIVT — in my view, a completely discredited body —which administers this European funding, recently authorised the paltry sum of £2,000 for the families acting for innocent relatives. This is one of the largest victims groups in Northern Ireland, made up of several hundred RUC, UDR and RIR widows.

It is disgraceful that terrorist prisoners are receiving such large amounts, yet innocent victims receive very little or, in some cases, nothing at all. NIVT is a discredited body in the Unionist community, and, as a priority, I am calling for an independent report to be compiled into its administration and allocation of grants under the Peace I programme. No further funding should be given to prisoners, ex-prisoners or their families; the resources that are available under the Peace II programme should instead be channelled towards the real victims of terror and their victim groups, together with the many innocent victims who are not members of any victim groups and have had to endure agony, often in silence, with little or no support.

In closing, I want to highlight the poor attendance in the Chamber today. There are fewer than 30 Members out of 108 to discuss the important and essential issue of victims.

Photo of Mr Denis Watson Mr Denis Watson UUAP 11:00 am, 3rd April 2001

In supporting this motion, I welcome the announcement that has been made. I also put on record our thanks to our MEPs, our Government and those responsible for making this funding available under Peace II. It is rather ironic that some of our victims’ groups got very little money under Peace I. I listened with interest to Mr Boyd when he hinted — and it does beg the question — that those administering the funds then were working to their own political agenda. Certainly, the victims did not get their fair share of funding. Mr Boyd referred to Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR), and I understand that that group, together with Victims of Injustice Campaigning for Equality (VOICE) and Homes United by Ruthless Terror (HURT), travelled to Brussels in April 2000, where they lobbied successfully to ensure that there would be a line in the budget earmarked for victims of terrorist violence. Those — indeed, all — victims’ groups need to be treated as a priority.

To ensure that this is not lost in the debate, I want to say that the peace dividend needs to get down to the victims as quickly as possible. This has not yet happened. Core posts are needed in the sector, and they are essential if the excellent support work for victims is to continue and develop. We know that the work of the victims’ groups is expanding at an exceptional rate, and support is needed quickly.

Mr Boyd touched on discrimination. In the past, those groups which include members of the security forces have found that they have been discriminated against. We need guarantees that that will not happen. This needs to be made abundantly clear in relation to any funding from Peace II. Guarantees are also needed that groups with a proven track record of excellent work will be given all the resources they need to do the work that no one else is doing. They must be able to demonstrate good management practice, good value for money and good care for their members and staff. They must be treated as priority groups in the sector in future.

I agree with Mr Berry about the measures that need to be taken for the UDR and RIR widows. I hope that the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will address that matter. I hope that an anomaly will also be addressed. Past members of the RUC who left the force perhaps a few weeks before they were murdered are not included in arrangements for the RUC. I urge that the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister address that matter.

Photo of David Ervine David Ervine PUP

This can be nothing other than a difficult subject to deal with. If not every group of victims is named, I suppose some are being left out and others elevated. When the blood runs in the street, as the brain is splattered against the wall, the blood does not know the victim’s religion or political affiliation, or even his age. Our society, however, does not have one hierarchy of victims about which we hear, but a series of such hierarchies. Each group, each faction, elevates its victims or perceived victims above the victims or perceived victims of others.

I do not know whether this is any consolation at all to the widows, the widowers, the children or the parents. People who never knew the husbands, wives, sons or daughters have a bitterness and a hatred for them, and in death — even in death — a sense of detestation continues as if those people had been known intimately. It brings to mind the sense of communal pain felt in society, that sense felt by the diaspora. That communal pain is more evident when it is realised that those furthest away from the war are very often those who want the war to be fought most of all.

Recently I had a conversation with some victims. I asked them what I might do. Their reply was "Do not do anything for me publicly. If you have anything to do for me, it will be with the statutory agencies, which can affect my life in practical ways. If you espouse my cause publicly, I will not be sure whether you are doing it because of the value you place on me or because of the value you place on being heard by an electorate that might feel that you are fighting a good battle for them."

The nature of a divided society is that you cannot fight a good battle for someone without also fighting a good battle against someone. In a way we are all victims. The children, who came into this society with absolute innocence, were imbued with a traditional attitude from wherever they came, and that probably ensured that, in their separate ways, they found their paths to the jails and to the graveyards.

Something happened to us. Rather than play the game of supremacy that both sides play — especially with victims — would we not be better asking "What happened to us?" We stood the victims and their relatives side by side to make a line that forms the milestones to show us how far we had to come and how awful we had become before we began to make changes in this society. They also became the bulwarks against our capacity to revert back to what we once were.

Nothing is perfect. For those of us who have the luxury, there is an opportunity for life to be wonderful. Unfortunately, there are those on all sides whose lives will never be wonderful again. The sense of loss, with no intimate touches, no sharing of thoughts, no arguments, no smiles: that is a human experience. Whether you are Protestant or Catholic, Nationalist or Unionist, Loyalist or Republican, there can be no denying that we are all human beings who need to start pulling a curtain down on the past.

We will not forget where we have been, or what we have done, but perhaps as we move away from the brutality and the awfulness of the past, we will find a way to expurgate our guilt and our grief. We might be able to confront what happened to us: why we did the things we did; why we had the simplicity we had; why we lived with the ghosts, the myths and the shibboleths that allowed us to take life. Never mind venerating victims — it allowed us to take life.

Our choices are clear. Either we offer people succour and comfort in their time of need, or we are a failed society. Leave any one of them out and we wound ourselves. There are victims’ groups, and I am certain that they take great comfort from their fellowship, but there are individuals — ordinary people — suffering behind closed doors. Rather than simply going on a rant of my personal opinions, let me try and do something practical. It is vital that those with authority are proactive in helping victims. It will be easy to identify the victims’ groups but much harder to identify the individual sufferers, those who do not want that fellowship, those who do not want to be used as pawns in a political game, those who prefer to live isolated lives.

What are we doing that is proactive for those individuals? Are we rapping on the doors to offer them society’s help or are we waiting until they come to the door with a begging bowl? When we talk about the Peace II initiatives, I would like to know what we are going to do. I advocate that the two junior Ministers take back to their respective leaders the importance of being proactive and say that any single, unrecognised victim diminishes this society.

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC 11:15 am, 3rd April 2001

We welcome the motion. However, I am a little confused, if not somewhat bemused, as to the reason for its being before us. If it is about creating greater awareness of what is on offer for those who have suffered throughout the many years of troubles, it is certainly extremely valuable. As Mr Ervine said, we need to be extremely proactive about letting people know what is available and what can be done to help victims. It is vital that we ensure that there is greater awareness of this subject.

However, if the purpose of this motion is to enable us to take credit, it is of no value. Taking credit or praising oneself for doing something which people in authority should have been doing for many, many years is not something that I welcome. However, I will give it the benefit of the doubt and assume that the reason we are discussing this today is that victims, victims’ groups, people who have suffered and people who, as Mr Ervine said, suffer "behind closed doors" and do not know how to come forward will now know that this help is available to them and that they must come forward. We would definitely like to be much more specific about exactly what is available. We do need to go out to let victims know what is available to them.

I want to dwell for a moment on a history lesson. As head of the European Commission office in 1994, I was involved in setting up the first peace programme. In the negotiations with Brussels on Peace I, the needs of victims were very much on the table and were being discussed by civil servants and fonctionnaires in Brussels and here. Pushed by Europe, there was support for victims and victims’ groups under Peace I, though, without any doubt, there was not nearly enough. Our hope must be that in Peace II much more is made available in this specific measure for victims.

I also remind Members that when the first draft of the Peace II programme was issued well over a year ago, several Assembly Members were at the presentation in the Long Gallery. I think that it was Adam Ingram and his staff who made the presentation. It should be on record somewhere that when the first draft of Peace II was issued, there was not even a mention of victims in it.

I remember several of us raising our hands to arrest the proceedings and query what the peace and reconciliation programme was all about. There seemed to be an incredible steer towards those projects that focused on the economic needs of Northern Ireland. I also stated that it would be difficult to stamp a dove of peace on Peace II, because there was not nearly enough work being done on reconciliation and getting communities together. I am very glad to see that there has been a turnaround and that as a result of consultation and pressure the original draft has become a source of measures which we can welcome in today’s motion.

However, I want us to go further than that. I would also like to welcome specific measures for integrated education, for greater cross-border co-operation and for more cross-community work. Peace II needs to achieve these goals also and we should bring these issues to the Floor of the House.

There is no doubt that we welcome the specific measures for victims included in the European Peace II programme. We thank the European Union for providing us with the finance to enable us to do this. Once the European moneys run out, let us hope that the Government will undertake to continue support measures for the victims of the troubles by mainstreaming this funding. Let us not simply clap ourselves on the back in congratulations for our good works. We are not doing enough. Much more needs to be done on a long-term basis.

Photo of Alban Maginness Alban Maginness Social Democratic and Labour Party

As I listen to this debate I have a sense of déjà vu. The old arguments much beloved of the DUP about "innocent" and "real" victims are being remoulded and recycled. I had hoped that the DUP might strike a more positive note today.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Does the Member consider Slobadan Milosevic to be a victim?

Photo of Alban Maginness Alban Maginness Social Democratic and Labour Party

I am not sure that that is relevant to the debate.

Allow me to develop my argument a little. I respect Mr Berry because he has a genuine interest in the concerns and needs of victims. However, I am disappointed by the rather begrudging, carping attitude that he brought to the debate today. Instead of welcoming this motion with enthusiasm, he criticised it and then indulged in the old argument about innocent victims, real victims and prisoners et cetera. Ex-prisoners help to re-establish themselves as citizens. I am not afraid to assert that publicly, because it is important that we assist these people.

That is a separate argument, and ex-prisoners have separate needs. A humane and caring society is one that says to ex-prisoners "You have offended. You paid a price. We will now help you to rehabilitate yourselves." This applies to people who were convicted of offences arising out of the troubles — scheduled offences — as much as to those who were convicted of "ordinary" crimes.

The prisoners’ argument is completely separate from the victims’ argument. Let us consider the centrality of victims. The Good Friday Agreement, which the DUP opposes and seeks to overturn, addresses the needs and suffering of victims. A section devoted to victims of violence says

"The participants believe that it is essential to acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation."

That is an important statement.

Today, the Executive are addressing the needs of victims of the troubles. That is an important step which everyone in the House should welcome enthusiastically. Peace II gives us an opportunity to target specifically the needs of victims. David Ervine spoke very eloquently about the needs of victims and pointed out that it is not only victims’ groups that we need to help but also individual victims, especially those who are hidden away and who feel so isolated and so marginalised that they may have given up hope. The Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will target victims individually and through organisations. The important strategy on which the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister is working, on which all Members will be consulted, will establish a comprehensive programme for addressing the needs of victims.

Let me return to the Good Friday Agreement, which says that it is essential not only to "address" but also to "acknowledge" the suffering of victims.

Photo of Paul Berry Paul Berry DUP

Will the Member acknowledge that when he and his party, and many others, agreed to the Good Friday Agreement — if one can call it that — many victims were sorely annoyed and distressed when they saw that the perpetrators of violence were going to be released early on to the streets and the victims shunned? Basically, those victims were told "We care more for the prisoners than we care for the victims."

Photo of Alban Maginness Alban Maginness Social Democratic and Labour Party

Yes, some people were mightily distressed by the early release of prisoners, and some were not.

Photo of Mr Billy Hutchinson Mr Billy Hutchinson PUP

Does the Member agree that on 15 December 1994, when exploratory talks opened in this Building, 364 Loyalist and Republican life-sentence prisoners were already on the streets, long before the Good Friday Agreement was even talked about?

Photo of Alban Maginness Alban Maginness Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Member for the intervention. In the normal course of events prisoners are released from prison when they have served their time. As Mr Hutchinson pointed out, many Loyalist and Republican prisoners had already been released. The number of reoffenders among that group, and, indeed, among the groups released after the Good Friday Agreement, is minimal, and it is important to take that into consideration.

People say "Hordes of prisoners have been released. This is terrible." Is it so terrible? Prisoners have contributed to and secured the peace in our society. They may have done terrible things in the past, but they have paid for those things. The contribution of prisoners should not be underestimated — though it should not be overestimated either.

The Good Friday Agreement talks about victims — it makes them a central part of the agreement. We — especially members of the DUP, who are so opposed to the Good Friday Agreement — should say that it has produced a focus on victims. If we were truthful, that is what we would say. The Good Friday Agreement has acted as a stimulus for focusing on the needs of victims, and it is very important for Members to acknowledge that.

The Good Friday Agreement talks about the acknowledgement of victims. Today we are talking about addressing the needs of victims. The strategy has to address not only the needs of victims but also has to acknowledge victims in some way. I do not know how we will do that. Many ways have been suggested, but there is no overall scheme in which acknowledgement can fully take place. The strategy that the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister produces should contain a major element acknowledging the role of victims and their suffering. It should acknowledge their pain both individually and collectively. That is an important element and should be included.

The SDLP takes acknowledgement seriously, and we have produced our own ideas about it. One of these ideas, which would be helpful in acknowledging the suffering and pain of victims collectively and individually, is the establishment of a video archive. This would be publicly funded, and victims of the troubles could go to it and relate their stories on video or audio. The tapes will be stored as an historic record, which the public will have access to. Similar schemes have been set up in other places such as Israel and Washington.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr DUP 11:30 am, 3rd April 2001

I thank the Member for giving way and for putting an interesting idea to the House. Is he proposing, in his definition of victims, that people who have been injured by terrorist activity should have to share a place in that scheme with people who were terrorists and were perhaps injured by members of the security forces who were defending law and order? Does he understand that some victims might feel reluctant to be seen as part of that definition?

Photo of Alban Maginness Alban Maginness Social Democratic and Labour Party

I understand your position and the deeply held views of people who are upset about the equation that you have just suggested.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

The debate is to be conducted through the Chair, not by addressing Members directly.

Photo of Alban Maginness Alban Maginness Social Democratic and Labour Party

I apologise, Mr Speaker.

The definition of victim that Mr Paisley Jnr suggested is far too restrictive. Eileen Bell is a leading expert on victims because she did so much work over the years in that area before the issue of victims became "fashionable". She has suggested that the definition of victim should not be restrictive — it should be much wider.

The SDLP believes that as well. If people believe that they have been victimised by the troubles, that should be sufficient to define them as victims. It should be self-defining, because when people are excluded all sorts of problems are created. However, I do understand the sensitivities that people have about the definition of victims and the sharing, as it were, of victimhood with people whom they do not agree with politically or who they believe to have been the cause of violence or hurt in society.

It is essential that the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister co-operate fully with the Northern Ireland Office and with Minister Ingram in particular. It is vital to have co-operation between the Executive and the Northern Ireland Office. Mr Ingram has been very helpful and enthusiastic in addressing victims’ issues. A co-operative approach is central to addressing the gamut of victims’ needs. I am sure that that will come about, and I urge that it does.

Photo of Iris Robinson Iris Robinson DUP

There is a difference between those who carried out terrorist atrocities and those who suffered at the hands of those same terrorists. To say that the prisoners have paid their price to society is to add insult to injury.

Some terrorists served only months of life sentences because of the deal agreed under the Belfast Agreement. Many ex-prisoners are involved in drugs, protection rackets and other antisocial activities. They have created a mafia-type society that is causing severe hardship across the Province. I ask Mr Maginness to bear that in mind.

Throughout the so-called peace process, one group of people has come to symbolise all that is wrong with current political developments — the victims of the troubles; and by "victims" I mean those who have suffered as a result of terrorist violence. They are the real victims as opposed to those who are busily trying to claim a place in that honourable group.

The evident disparity between the way in which ex-prisoners and victims are treated is obscene. The catalogue of financial handouts to ex-prisoner groups is not only offensive but smacks of a pay-off. Almost £7 million have been given to ex-prisoners to date. That is, of course, only a minimum figure — a vast sum has been given to them through other mechanisms. Whatever figure is taken, it should be compared to what the real victims have received, which, in my opinion, is a bare fraction of what has been given to ex-prisoners.

Why have real victims been so overlooked? Is it because they are an in-your-face reminder of the barbarity and brutality of the deeds of wicked people, some of whom now pose as peacemakers?

Can the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister explain why we now have a cunning redefinition of who the real victims are? It has long been a tactic of Republicans to portray their lives as ones of unrelieved blackness and "victimhood". That has worked well for them until now, so why would they want to cease such a profitable occupation, especially when there is money in it for them? That is why it is essential to recognise the difference between those who support terrorism and those who have borne the brunt of it.

It has been mainly the Protestant community that has suffered so much, often without murmuring or complaining. Republicans, however, although they have been at the forefront of the cause of the suffering, have gone around the world whingeing and begging as though they were the victims. Our community, in contrast, has picked itself up and plodded on, and we have lost out as a result. We find that the lion’s share goes to the terrorists and thugs at every turn.

We are now witnessing the unacceptable merging of real victims with those who caused the trouble in the first place. The real victims, once again, are being treated on a par with those who caused the pain and hurt. To make matters worse, legitimate victims’ groups are unable to employ the number of staff required to provide the full range of services for those who need them. They are unable to meet in the sort of premises that terrorists now enjoy outside prison. I find that obscene.

To add insult to injury, victims with young children have had to endure the humiliation of being unable to provide for their growing families, as they watch the perpetrators of their anguish being lauded and hailed at every turn. Some of those people now have the audacity to sit in the Chamber with an arsenal of weapons at their disposal.

One of the major problems that I have encountered is the prejudice shown by the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust (NIVT) towards organisations on the Protestant side, on the grounds that they are too political. It does not have that attitude towards ex-prisoner groups. The director of the NIVT said

"politically motivated ex-prisoners of war are at the forefront and actively continuing their struggle with their clear commitments to community development."

In March last year the NIVT froze funding for Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR). Again, in September, it reduced the funding, which meant that FAIR was no longer able to retain all of the staff that it had employed to help victims. In comparison —[Interruption]

Photo of Mr Billy Hutchinson Mr Billy Hutchinson PUP

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer you to Standing Order 17(7) because I am concerned that several Members have mentioned organisations that have acted as intermediary funding bodies. However, they have not mentioned others who fund prisoners’ organisations and rehabilitation. Under Standing Order 17(7), you could rule to prevent that. NIVT has done excellent work to tackle poverty and that has gone unrecognised in the Chamber.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Standing Order 17(7) gives the Speaker an opportunity to draw attention to persistent irrelevance or tedious repetition.

I am generous to many Members with regard to the length and repetitiveness of their speeches. However, it may be a relief to the House that not all Members are mentioning all organisations — otherwise we would never get through the debate.

Photo of Iris Robinson Iris Robinson DUP

I do not have time to go down the list of relevant funding bodies, but I take the point that my Colleague made.

In comparison to the funding for FAIR, Relatives for Justice, which is far more political than FAIR, received £99,000. That is not a sign of even-handedness or of a commitment to helping victims, especially Protestant victims.

Photo of Iris Robinson Iris Robinson DUP

No. I am just finishing.

I hope that the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will reassure the House that the real victims of terrorism will receive money separately from ex-prisoners’ groups and remove the current disparity in funding.

11.45am

Photo of Mary Nelis Mary Nelis Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I will briefly mention some of the comments made by Members about ex-prisoners. I must state clearly that ex-prisoners are making, and have made, a valuable contribution to the healing and confidence building that is characteristic in a society that is emerging from conflict. I also want to draw attention to the DUP, those innocent victims, politicians who, from what we hear in the Chamber, never did anything wrong. Graveyards are full of the victims of Ulster resistance, the killing machine that the DUP played a big part in.

No money can compensate those who lost a family member in the conflict of the past 30 years. It is an unmeasurable grief that time does not heal. Time merely adjusts the quality of life for the living so that they perform the functions of everyday living in the knowledge that part of their lives has closed down — a burden that never goes away. No one should expect relatives who are carrying such a cross of grief also to carry the additional pressure of financial hardship created by the loss or injury of a family member. Monetary aid that can ease that pressure should be sought out and delivered. That delivery must acknowledge equality of treatment; it should acknowledge transparency; and it should be based on the principle of "to each according to his needs".

The welcome addition of EU money should not become the subject of a squabbling match between a plethora of administrative groups. Indeed the situation involving the Victims Liaison Unit, the Victims Unit, the trauma advisory services and the various intermediate funding bodies — not to mention the Secretary of State — is only causing confusion to the victims who are looking on and wondering what it has to do with them. I am not demeaning the role of the groups that I have mentioned in trying to address the needs of victims, but the administrative quagmire is causing total confusion. What proportion of the EU funding will be soaked up by the bureaucratic bodies on administration? Why do we need all these people dipping their fingers into the till of money that should be used solely to address the needs of those who have suffered as a result of the conflict? I need an assurance — and so do all the relatives’ groups and individuals — that an administrative levy will not be imposed on the distribution of the money.

In addition to the legitimate concerns of relatives of victims and survivors of the conflict who have the right to be adequately compensated, they collectively have the right to truth, justice, acknowledgement and recognition. The Bloomfield Report is used as the definitive means by which the Northern Ireland Office measures victimhood. Commentators and numerous politicians have constantly articulated the hurt of those affected by the conflict, but that expression, is rarely extended to the forgotten victims and survivors of state and state-sponsored violence. Such victims — well over 400 men, women and children — were accorded one paragraph in the lengthy Bloomfield Report. Is it any wonder that there is in effect — and some Members have mentioned this today — what amounts to a pecking order of victims? We saw it recently when the Secretary of State announced £11 million for the relatives of RUC victims. I am not saying they do not deserve that, but compare it with the £200,000 that was announced for all of the other victims’ groups and individuals.

That disparity between allocations reinforces the perception that the state operates a league table of victims, not only in funding, but also in truth, justice and recognition.

Marginalising the forgotten victims of state violence is a tactic in the propaganda war. It is used successfully by politicians to demonise and exclude those who do not come within the definition "security forces". They label the relatives of some of those killed as innocent and, by implication, others as guilty. The suggestion is that some were right and some were wrong. That makes nonsense of the historic compromise that is the Good Friday Agreement and is an attempt to criminalise everyone. There are double standards on the part of the British Government, and anyone following the issue of victims in the media could be forgiven for thinking that there were only two parties to the conflict. Many parties were directly and indirectly involved in the conflict, and we are all responsible for victims.

We have a duty to care for all who have suffered and for those who live with grief, injury, pain and traumatic stress. We have the opportunity, with this small tranche of money, to decide that it will be given to all surviving victims and their families, irrespective of political or religious differences. The present administrative arrangements are divisive and bureaucratic and will only postpone the opportunity for healing, which is the main purpose of the money. Go raibh míle maith agat.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I welcome the additional money. It is coming to Northern Ireland as a result of the efforts of the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, of our three MEPs and, to some extent, of Members of the Assembly who went to Brussels to lobby for it in 1998. I also welcome the inclusion of a specific measure for victims in the Peace II programme. Most of the funding should go towards the innocent victims of terrorism and paramilitarism.

In determining how to treat victims, we should consider how their needs were addressed in the past. Most innocent victims are not highly organised or politicised. I urge Ministers to be proactive in assisting with the establishment of a support structure for victims in all areas. I am thinking of organisations such as Wave, which is respected by all communities. As a starting point, the Minister should analyse each council area to see how much funding there has been for victims. I fear that some stark figures will come to light from such a study.

My experience of how victims were dealt with by Peace I is, in the main, limited to my own constituency. There are victims in all constituencies in Northern Ireland. In my constituency, there have been many innocent victims of violence. Many members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Ulster Defence Regiment, the Royal Irish Regiment, the Army, the Prison Service and their families have also been victims of terrorism. In addition to what has happened in the past, there are at least 80 organised gangs, many with paramilitary connections, whose activities continue to create victims. That fact has been highlighted by a recent report. People are being intimidated and business people blackmailed by those gangs. Those people too are victims, and their problems must be addressed.

Many of these gangs hide under a cloak of either Republicanism or Loyalism.

How many victims were assisted by Peace I funding in my own area? I recently received a report from Proteus, one of the Peace I bodies. The report advised that Proteus had assisted 1,331 victims of violence and 977 ex-prisoners. How much of that money was spent in Carrickfergus? Carrickfergus does not appear in the table of funding. No money was spent in Carrickfergus. A very low proportion was spent in Larne. The money is not being evenly distributed. Some areas need assistance in drawing down the funding to help victims of violence.

The Educational Guidance Service for Adults received £4·3 million in European Peace I funding, if my memory serves me correctly. In the entire constituency of East Antrim £26,000 was spent. These groups were putting money into victims’ groups and ex-prisoners’ groups, and a very low proportion was being spent in East Antrim.

I also urge that specific funding be set aside for the ongoing victims of intimidation. I am aware of several very genuine victims who are experiencing difficulties in re-establishing their lives. In the last year they have been forced out of their homes, yet the system does not appear to be able to assist them. I ask the Minister to be proactive for those who continue to suffer from intimidation by paramilitary groups.

How are we going to assist those who are being brutalised or shot by these self-appointed paramilitary godfathers? Some in this House continue to withhold their support from the police and continue to hold back from urging their community to join the police. Whether they like it or not, they have a degree of responsibility for victims of ongoing terrorist violence when they withhold their support from the police and withhold support for joining the police from their community.

Everyone must get behind the police. They must get behind the criminal justice system exclusively. The longer games are played, the more victims there will be. Others will use the withholding of support for the police to justify their breaches of human rights and the brutalisation of bodies. This Assembly and this society must decide whether they are going to move forward by respecting the rule of law and by relying solely on the criminal justice system.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon DUP

I welcome the fact that money has been allocated to victims. I wish to speak specifically on where that money should go. The notion that the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland should receive the financial support of government, both at Westminster and in Brussels, is honourable. However, events of the past few years have shown us that this too has been lost amongst the political expediency and the social confusion that is the Belfast Agreement.

The gulf between Government efforts to promote and support the spokesmen of terror and their acknowledgement of and support for the victims of terror is truly reprehensible. IRA/Sinn Féin, which has the blood of thirty years of slaughter on its hands, is elevated to Government, and has millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money thrown at it. On the other hand, we have the families and individuals who must live the rest of their lives with the physical and emotional scars received at the hands of these thugs. The victims are having to organise and raise money for their own cause on their own.

12.00

The Government of this country have rejected and insulted the victims of terror and the memory of those who died to protect freedom and liberty in the scramble to meet the demands of IRA/Sinn Féin. Along with many others, I must applaud the bravery and courage of all those real victims and groups, such as the Long March, in refusing to lie down to the intimidation of IRA/Sinn Féin and the treachery of Westminster.

Our respect and admiration must be directed towards the victims who choose to stand on a public platform and share their experiences of how their lives have been destroyed at the hands of IRA/Sinn Féin. It is not easy to remain emotionally detached from the issue when you see people on television such as Michelle Williamson, who lost her parents in the Shankill bombing. When you hear her telling her story in person, and when you listen to the experiences of others whose lives have been wrecked by the troubles, the emotions and feelings stimulated can hardly be described or contained.

This is the reality of the past 30 years, and it exposes the play-acting and pantomime farce that is the Belfast Agreement through which murderers are given the power to dictate how we run our lives. They are able to do this as a direct result of taking innocent lives, yet they continue to plot the ethnic cleansing of all things Protestant and Unionist from our Province. There is no bigger insult to all the innocent victims. This is the present day reality. Innocent victims of fascist Republican terrorism are castigated, disregarded and ignored, simply because of their innocence and incapability of planting bombs in London — because they have no wish to do that. Therefore it is disgraceful to note the amounts of public money being allocated to those who, ironically, were responsible for our troubled history, while the real victims are ignored and pilloried.

One such group comprises the wives and widows of those who were injured or murdered defending democracy in this country while wearing the uniform of the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Irish Regiment. One hundred and ninety-nine members made the ultimate sacrifice, while many hundreds more were injured or maimed. Families and former members require support and recognition and the Assembly has debated the issue before and has supported a motion. They, of all people, have had to endure untold hardship and pressure. It is deplorable that thus far they have gone unnoticed.

Money has been made available for RUC widows. I welcome that, although it is long overdue. However, a precedent has now been set, and it is essential that UDR widows and families get satisfaction on this matter as soon as is practicable. Many of us can recall members of the UDR and the RIR who are no longer here to look after their families. We can recall the young children and families left at home and the derisory amount of money offered to them as a result of their breadwinner being murdered by the IRA.

Photo of Mr Patrick Roche Mr Patrick Roche NIUP

Does the Member agree that it was Mr Martin McGuinness, as head of the northern command of the IRA, who was responsible for initiating as a major strategy the shooting of off-duty policemen and UDR men?

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon DUP

I thank the Member for his intervention. That has been well illustrated in many books and papers.

I also want to focus on those people who are not the members of victims’ groups. A young man from east Belfast came to my advice centre a few months ago. He had witnessed the murder of his father and brother, and for the last 20 years has been unable to forget that nightmare. He has lived it every minute, every hour, every week, every year for 20 years. He has been unable to hold down a job and is unfortunately unable to have an ordinary stable relationship, although he is married with a very young family. He is one of the people who are outside the victims’ groups. Where do those such as this young man feature in this system? How will he be accommodated and where will financial assistance be made available to him to help him get over the trauma and distress that he has had over the last 20 years? Where will the help be for him and his wee family?

For over 30 years the gunmen of IRA/Sinn Féin have been employed in a campaign of terror throughout this country, leaving many thousands of families without husbands, wives, sons and daughters and leaving countless children orphans. The lives of these people have been irreversibly altered and they continue to suffer. However, over the past three decades they have been ignored, isolated and forgotten.

It is stomach-churning to listen to the arrogance of the Republican movement making public representations such as at the launch of the Human Rights Commission. One individual from that organisation asked what was going to be done to accommodate the poor unfortunate Republican prisoners who have been released on to the streets through the Belfast Agreement. That was his idea. Another individual wanted to know how the Irish language was going to be accommodated, while a third spoke about the deaths of rioters who had been shot by plastic bullets.

Let us put this into perspective. The voice of the true victims, the peace loving and the law-abiding citizens of Northern Ireland has again been relegated behind that of the terrorists and the gunmen. This is no surprise unfortunately, as those in the pro-democracy camp warned that this would happen before and ever since the signing of the agreement.

The landscape for the real victims of terror cannot be allowed to remain as it is. The policy, attitudes and financial assistance that will be available through Peace II must change, and the real victims must get their say. This new tranche of funding must be available to the victims of terrorism and put the focus on the families who today are living and continually reliving their experiences. They need our help.

Photo of Mr Cedric Wilson Mr Cedric Wilson NIUP

Although my party welcomes any proposal to recognise the loss to the families of the innocent victims of terrorism, it is important that we put this matter into perspective. The problem was brought home to me very starkly when a lady representing one of the victims’ groups spoke at the front of Castle Buildings.

On that occasion that group came up to point out to the British Government — Mr Tony Blair and the Secretary of State — that while they were inside negotiating with terrorists on the difficulties with the Belfast Agreement, the victims had been largely forgotten. Members of that group brought that home in a very graphic way with large posters and large display boards showing the thousands of innocent victims throughout Northern Ireland who had suffered as a result of the vicious and violent terrorist campaign over the last 30 years.

However, this lady had something to say about victims that the House would do well to remember. She said that for many years people such as herself, her friends and her neighbours, along the border counties in particular, had been suffering quietly and had borne their grief with pride and dignity. They were proud of the fact that sons, daughters and, in her case, husband had been prepared to sacrifice their lives — and their families had suffered as a result — because they were standing for democracy, law and order and justice.

This lady showed clearly that her husband had not been being discriminatory when he put his uniform on to go out and defend the community, because he protected the entire community — Catholics and Protestants, Nationalists and Unionists. We must never forget these people. The lady accurately reflected the view of many victims, particularly those whose families had suffered as a result of their commitment to providing law and order to this community.

She then witnessed the corruption of the democratic process and the fact that the RUC was to be dishonoured and disarmed at a time when the terrorists were being elevated. People who had been on the run, who were on wanted lists and who had been sought and pursued, as was right, by the security forces were then seen walking into negotiations to bring into being the Belfast Agreement. They were being fêted across the world in Washington and further afield, meeting world leaders and being treated as statesmen.

That spectacle activated those people to moving from bearing their pain with pride and dignity to a position in which they felt that, if nothing else, at least their families might get some recompense for the pain and suffering that they had borne.

I was keen to hear some of the remarks made today, because they reinforce the point that I am about to make. The formal signing and sealing of the Belfast Agreement led to the pollution of the democratic process and the destruction of the RUC. The people of Northern Ireland must continue to remember that fact.

Photo of Mr Cedric Wilson Mr Cedric Wilson NIUP

I am sorry, but I will not give way.

In the months ahead, the Belfast Agreement will place the representatives and frontmen of terror in the governing body of the new Police Service of Northern Ireland. They will be on the boards, managing and controlling the new service in their respective areas. Imagine the affront that will be caused to many, particularly those in the border counties. They will know that those who control the Police Service in their areas are the very people, organisations and those linked to organisations that put their loved ones in an early grave — those who were responsible for over 10,000 maimings, mutilations and murders throughout the Province.

Under this scheme we could witness the spectacle — if the Secretary of State’s interpretation of the entry criteria for the new Police Service is correct — of people in border counties seeing those who, they know, murdered their loved ones wearing the uniform of the new Police Service. How would you feel if your father, mother, brother or sister was murdered by someone who was never brought to book for it? Do not dismiss this as notional or fanciful. The reality is that many people have never been brought to justice in Northern Ireland, particularly in County Armagh. There were several killings in that murder triangle over a short period, and only a small proportion of the perpetrators were brought to justice.

I move on — [Interruption]

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. I caution the Member that he has moved well away from the issue of victims and money for victims, which is the subject of the motion, and on to related but separate matters.

Photo of Mr Cedric Wilson Mr Cedric Wilson NIUP

Insult has been added to injury in today’s debate by the fact that those who front and are "inextricably linked to terrorist organisations" — an expression used by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State — as represented here by Sinn Féin and the PUP, have the effrontery to get up — [Interruption]

Photo of Mr Cedric Wilson Mr Cedric Wilson NIUP

No.

They have the effrontery to talk about what they can do for the victims. Despite their high-sounding words and their homilies to Members about the need to reach out and look forward, they are people who prepared to go into a pub and plant a bomb, with no better or greater excuse than the presence there of innocent Catholics or Protestants. In some way they consider those people to be the enemy.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. The Member and his Colleague need to be careful about the direct accusations against other Members that they make in the Chamber. They may be covered legally in some circumstances against action, but they are not necessarily covered by parliamentary procedure in making direct accusations against Members when there have been no convictions on the basis of the actions that they describe. I simply caution the Member and refer to the comment made by a Colleague of his.

Photo of Mr Patrick Roche Mr Patrick Roche NIUP

On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

I will take the point of order from Mr Roche and then the one from Mr Poots.

Photo of Mr Patrick Roche Mr Patrick Roche NIUP

I thank you for your advice, Mr Speaker, but I would not like to think that procedure could be used in any way to silence debate in the Assembly. If you want me to, I will give you numerous references from respected and recognised authorities on the IRA to back up any statement that I ever make about the IRA.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. My response to the Member is that order in this place is the same as in other places.

When accusations are made about a Member, particularly when they are made without notice and in the absence of the Member, conventions of parliamentary procedure and courtesy are being breached. That matter is clear. The Member ought to read some of the parliamentary procedural documents that he is so fond of referring to. The issue that he raises about other evidence is not relevant.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 12:15 pm, 3rd April 2001

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Outside this Chamber, an organisation cannot be defamed, but individuals in the organisation can. Mr Wilson mentioned organisations — not Members in the Chamber.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

The Member should read Hansard tomorrow. In fact, Mr Wilson went much further than mentioning only organisations. He referred to Members in the Chamber, and he referred to Members who had spoken. It was clear what was being referred to. That is why I cautioned the Member. I am not asking him to withdraw his comments at this point, but I have cautioned him.

Photo of Francie Molloy Francie Molloy Sinn Féin

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it would be worthwhile to read Hansard tomorrow because the previous Member did mention a member of my party by name, and we will be looking at that. Will you make a ruling on that?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

I have already advised the House that I will be studying the matter. The fact that I have raised the matter myself shows that I am doing my best to pay attention both to procedures and to what Members say.

Photo of David Ervine David Ervine PUP

On a point of order, Mr Speaker — or perhaps a point of clarification. Having been alluded to, I believe, by the Member, do I have a right of reply?

Photo of Mr Cedric Wilson Mr Cedric Wilson NIUP

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will not be losing any sleep over any determination about what I have said today. I stand by every word.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

Order. The Member may not lose sleep, but he may for a while lose the right to be in his seat. Please continue.

Photo of Mr Cedric Wilson Mr Cedric Wilson NIUP

That could also be borne.

People may think that my comments are harsh about the organisations that I have mentioned, but one has only got to put this matter into perspective. The organisations that I mentioned — Sinn Féin/IRA, and the terrorists represented in the Chamber by the PUP — are, at this moment sitting on huge piles of illegal weaponry. They refuse to hand those weapons in — weapons that are still being used almost daily for acts of terrorism and criminality and which we are told that they may need in the future. That is the sole purpose for those people having them. One should not believe that the leopards in those organisations have changed their spots or have had a great change of heart. That is the point on which I wish to end my comments. The reality is that the greatest—[Interruption]

Photo of Mr Cedric Wilson Mr Cedric Wilson NIUP

No.

The real and greatest reward, tribute or memorial for the innocent victims and the families of those who have suffered throughout Northern Ireland would be to see democracy, law and order restored. It would be to see terrorism and its representatives removed from their positions as they pollute the democratic process by their very presence in this Chamber and in what is called the peace process. While these people pay tribute to the desire for peace and the need to move things forward, it is always at a price. In the case of Sinn Féin/IRA, it is further concessions.

Their reason for keeping the process moving was that those who were guilty of some of the most heinous crimes — such as those who were responsible for the murder of two policemen, as my Colleague said — would be given a clean slate. They have now been granted an amnesty. There is now a desire and a push by Sinn Féin for a wider amnesty for all those who have been involved in criminality and terror in the past 30 years.

Just outside this Chamber there is an epitaph to Mr Edgar Graham, who fell as a result of the terrorist campaign. The stone that marks his savage murder by the IRA reads

"Keep alive the light of justice".

That is a charge to the House today. It is exactly the opposite of what is happening in the process in Northern Ireland. I apologise to the people — particularly to the victims — who had to listen to terrorists talking about how they should deal with the victims of terror. It is an absolute affront and a disgrace.

It is the duty of those Members who believe in democracy, justice and law and order to rid ourselves of that process and put in its place something that will ensure that there are no victims in the future.

Photo of Mr Oliver Gibson Mr Oliver Gibson DUP

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this issue. On 29 January I had a unique opportunity. I joined in Brussels with councillors from all over Europe to form the Confederation of European Councillors. The first act of the confederation was carried out on Sunday 28 January — a cold but sunny winter’s day. The councillors joined together in the largest cemetery in Flanders field and assembled around the grave of the youngest soldier to be killed in the first world war. He was a lad of 14 years of age from County Wexford.

I was further honoured when I was asked to lead the act of remembrance. However, the greatest victims of shame and hypocrisy were those who had come from that same county and that same part of Ireland. They publicly wept because, for the first time, they recognised the shame and the hypocrisy of not having respected and honoured their own.

There have also been sad occasions in my constituency on which to report. We have had 97 people murdered. An equal or greater number from outside the constituency were also murdered in West Tyrone. I have also seen the victims of shame. The coffin of a decent, respected Roman Catholic RUC man was being carried down the streets of Omagh, but the Roman Catholic population shunned and boycotted that funeral of one of their own respected families. Therefore there is — perhaps for the first time — a recognition that there is a growing awareness in the Catholic community, and it did not happen on the day of the Omagh bomb when 29 people were killed.

What was different on that day was that the Roman Catholic population of Omagh felt the pain, sorrow and anguish that had been felt in the 97 Protestant households of West Tyrone for 28 years. A colleague, Cllr Joe Byrne, was the first person to come to my home. I was glad to see him, and I could recognise the genuine feeling.

In my constituency office I still attend to families who were given pitiful sums. Thirty years ago a family from Castlederg received £700 compensation. Those families have had to struggle to survive financially to bring up their families and to manage small businesses, farms or their work. I am grateful that the two junior Ministers came to the Committee of the Centre. They have given us their help and support and, so far, they have shown a willingness to listen.

I am rather tired and angered today when I hear the begrudging hypocrisy, particularly from Alban Maginness. There is still a very serious problem. During a Committee evidence session I pointed out that some of the victims expected very little compensation, and one of the witnesses, in a rather condescending way, said that she had been delighted to receive a letter of thanks from the victims’ group which I initiated in west Tyrone for a day’s excursion that they had enjoyed to Belfast and the Crawfordsburn countryside. I chose not to point out that for three months one of those families had attended loved ones in the Royal Victoria Hospital, from where they also had two of their family cars stolen. They were not just victims in one way.

I also want to mention another raft of victims in the remote, rural area of west Tyrone where the Protestant community is sparse. The small Orange halls and church halls that were used as community halls for social activity cannot now be used because of terrorist threats. Those halls are now run down so that social fabric is also a victim.

At present, I am dealing with several specialised cases, and I am supporting a Manchester law firm that is dealing with people from my area who are termed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Those people received the best medical treatment that was available 20 to 25 years ago. However, while they tried to carry on and run their businesses, stress and trauma continued to debilitate them. They have had to give up their jobs, and they have had financial and domestic crises.

These people are in desperation and need the best we can provide. West Tyrone Voice, a victims’ organisation, is going out of its way to take a small group of selected people to an island in Greece. It wants to bring some psychiatric counsellors with them to support these people for 10 to 12 days to help them to recover. Over a long period these people have had to endure deep-seated psychiatric traumas — and that was not first from managing financial affairs or a family — which have become embedded.

Dr Hazlett Lynch, whom I got to head that organisation because of his personal qualities and counselling abilities, is regarded as someone who gives more than adequate guidance and help to those 250 families. The fax that he sent me says it all:

"Please make sure this message does not get lost in the debate. What we need are the following:

The peace dividend to get down to the victims".

That is a heartfelt plea; the people feel there is a victims’ industry but that the genuine victims are not in receipt of the help that they need. This has not happened as yet.

"Core posts in the sector — this is absolutely essential if the excellent support work for victims is to continue and develop; these posts are for suitable victims to work with victims; work at present is growing exponentially; the need for our groups has long been established.

Guarantees that there will be no discrimination against our sector by funding bodies".

Unfortunately, this has been a genuinely held feeling in West Tyrone Voice.

"Guarantees that the groups with a proven track record of excellent work on the ground are given the resources they need to do work that no one else is doing; that groups that can demonstrate good management practice, good value for money, good care for members and staff, etc, are treated as priority groups in this sector."

I appeal directly to the junior Minister to take those groups of victims who feel an honest and genuine need seriously.

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker 12:30 pm, 3rd April 2001

It was not clear that the Member was coming to the end of his speech, and I was going to give him the opportunity to continue when the debate resumes at two o’clock. However, that will not be necessary.

The sitting was suspended at 12.33 pm.

On resuming (Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McClelland] in the Chair) —

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 2:00 pm, 3rd April 2001

The House is fairly empty, but I am sure that it will fill up during my speech, not because of what I will say but because people will be returning from lunch.

I am glad that Mr Nesbitt has been here throughout the debate. I have criticised him on previous occasions, so it is only right that I should note his presence today. However, I must apologise, as I have to leave later this afternoon. I would like to stay for the whole debate but I have several appointments to keep.

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

Mr Poots, you are not usually so gently spoken. I am having trouble hearing you.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Do not worry, Mr Deputy Speaker; at certain points my voice will rise to the occasion.

There are three sources of funding for victims’ groups. It is important to bring those sources together in a common, identifiable body where victims can access funding. That has been a problem in the past. Different groups have administered different funds, but victims’ groups — and victims who do not belong to groups — have had trouble identifying where to go for support. Some have gone to the Victims Liaison Unit and some to the Victims Unit, but they have been sent from pillar to post on many occasions. It is important to address that issue properly.

I am also concerned that Peace II funding is being seen as an alternative to the money coming from the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, instead of complementing it. I know that applications have been made for funding during the past year that have not been met — certainly not in full. On most occasions they have received less than half of what was originally applied for. I am worried that we are looking at Peace II as an alternative to Executive funding, as opposed to a means of complementing it.

I welcome the motion, but I do not think that the Assembly or the Executive should be patting itself on the back and saying that we have done a great job for the victims. We have only touched the edges. What we are doing will help, and it is good to be doing something, but we cannot say that we have done a great job and that victims should feel obliged to us.

Is the money truly additional, or will it pay for things that should have been provided by other Departments anyway? I noticed that wheelchairs were included in the list of funding arrangements announced recently. That is a good thing, but the truth is that the Health Service should have provided them. I also noticed that money is going to the Ulster Hospital for a survey on facial reconstruction. Again, should that money not have been provided through the Health Service? I want to raise this issue, as it may apply when the funding is distributed later. I want to ensure that it is truly additional and will not be spent on things that should have been provided by whichever Department it may fall into.

Who funds the victims and distributes the funding? The Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust has already been mentioned. In my experience, district partnerships also fall into this category with their handling of victims’ groups. The Lisburn district partnership had to be brought to a virtual standstill to get it to support funding for victims’ groups.

The money for prisoners groups could go through on the nod, but if one wanted money for victims, there was a serious row.

The same thing happened when Castlereagh district partnership did not give funding to the victims of the La Mon massacre. That was one of the main incidents of the troubles in that area, yet that district partnership, which is supposed to be representative of the community, was not prepared to give money to a project relating to the La Mon massacre — a project which had the support of the local council and the community in general. I have to say that NIVT has been more willing and appears to have been less thorough when giving funding to prisoners’ groups as opposed to victims’ groups. What sort of society gives more favourable treatment to murderers than to those who had their loved ones murdered?

Alban Maginness said that the Belfast Agreement addressed the needs of victims, but in my opinion, the Belfast Agreement has exacerbated their needs. Justice was stood on its head, because those who carried out murder, those who planted bombs and those who created destruction in the Province were released from jail without having served time commensurate with the crimes that they committed. As a result, many whose loved ones had been murdered during the troubles here — people who had sat with their heads down and got on with life — said "Hold on a minute. These people are getting early release from jail for crimes that they have perpetrated, and the Government are funding them to help them to get their lives back together. As the people who lost our loved ones and as the people who were injured during the troubles, we are not getting the same treatment." That is why, after the Belfast Agreement was signed, a raft of victims’ groups appeared throughout the Province. They saw that funding was available to help people to re-establish themselves. However the funding was not going to those who had suffered during the troubles; it was going to those who had been carrying out the murders, the bombings and the shootings.

In his speech, Alban Maginness did not accept that there is any difference in victims. It is a pity that he is not here; I would have welcomed an intervention from him. There is a very clear difference. Nobody in his right mind would argue that Saddam Hussein was just as much a victim as the Marsh Shiites or the Kurds. Nobody in his right mind would argue that Slobodan Milosevic — and I note that Mr Maginness did not answer the question when I raised it during his speech — was of the same standing as the Kosovar Albanians who had to tramp across mountains after having been put out of their homes. Nobody in his right mind would say that Adolf Hitler falls into the same category as the Jews who were taken to the gas chambers. Nobody in his right mind should be saying that the South Armagh IRA should be equated with the people who lost their lives in the Kingsmill massacre, or that Lenny Murphy should be equated with the innocent Roman Catholics in North Belfast who were murdered by the Shankill butchers. There is a difference between terrorists who got themselves injured or killed as a result of their activities and innocent civilians who lost their lives — people who were shot in the back, who were simply going about their business.

I remember hearing on the news one night that a 19-year-old girl had been shot in Fermanagh. Gillian Johnston was her name. Some time later it was heard on the news that that family got something like £850 as compensation for the loss of that young lassie’s life. It would not have mattered whether it was £850 or £850,000 as it would not have brought her back. The joy that the family had from that young girl could never be reinstated. When people see those who have carried out murder being released from jail, being taken by the hand, given money and preferential treatment in housing, and then look at what the victims got, they say "Hold on — something is wrong with this society." There is something wrong with a society that does not treat its victims fairly.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr DUP

During his speech, Mr Alban Maginness mentioned his proposal for a victims’ archive, and I am sure the Member agrees that that is an interesting proposal. I would like him, if possible, to say whether he agrees that a victims’ archive can be of use only if it is for victims. If those who created victims are included in the archive, it will be a damning insult to the victims themselves.

The point was well made that those who suffered in the Holocaust would not want to share their victimhood with the Nazis. I am sure that the Member would agree that victims in the Northern Ireland archive should not have to share their victimhood with those who made them victims.

Perhaps Mr Maginness would also address the issue of prisoners’ being out of jail. I think he missed the point in his speech — perhaps deliberately — that prisoners get out of jail anyway. Does he agree that people were not complaining about prisoners’ getting out of jail, but about the fact that their punishment was deliberately curtailed by the Belfast Agreement? They were therefore not being punished at all for the crimes of which they were convicted.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for his intervention, and I fully agree with him. The man who carried out the Shankill bombing murdered 10 people – nine of them innocent — and I think he served six years and three months. The period was not commensurate with the crime committed, but he was released as a result of the Belfast Agreement.

Can you imagine having an archive that included the people who lost their lives in Loughgall? They were all armed and were out with murder in their hearts and minds. On the other hand, in Lurgan, two young lassies were shot at the shop in Kilwilkie together with the fellow who was walking across the street. Could Lenny Murphy be in the archive, with some of the people he murdered? I do not think that would be acceptable.

Photo of Alban Maginness Alban Maginness Social Democratic and Labour Party

The purpose of the video archive is for people to give their stories and to represent the pain and grief that they or their relatives have suffered as a result of the troubles. The people who died at Loughgall had families, and children were orphaned. Are those children and widows not victims of the troubles? Those who died were engaged in terrorist activities, but the result was that their families and children suffered. They are victims, and I suggest that they deserve a place in the archive.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Member for his intervention. I point out to him that during the Holocaust an archive was drawn up, and it would have been wholly inappropriate to put Adolf Hitler’s grandchildren into it — had he had any.

You cannot put the perpetrators of the crimes into the same category as the innocent who died during the troubles. That principle also applies to their families. That issue has to be clearly dealt with. Those who lost their lives during the troubles as a result of terrorism are not in the same category as those who went out to do an honest day’s work and lost their lives as a result of the illegal activities of others.

People have said that the prisoners’ issue and the victims’ issue are separate matters. In reality, the same bodies distribute the money to the prisoners and the victims. In essence, therefore, they are not separate issues. They are not separate issues when people see that more money, in the years after the Belfast Agreement was signed, has gone to prisoners’ groups than to victims’ groups. Those issues must be addressed.

We are never going to sort out the problem of the victims of the troubles. Money will never sort it out, because money cannot bring back a loved one. However, there are certain instances where money can help. I can think of young people who had to leave school at 16 or 17 to take a job because the father of the house had his life taken away. The mother had three or four other children to rear, so that young person needed to get a job to bring a few extra pounds into the house. They may now want to go into further education because they were denied that opportunity as a young person. That is the sort of issue that should be addressed.

Tremendous opportunities could be created for the victims of the troubles. I thank God that I am not one of the victims. A Republican organisation sought to make me a victim; it attempted to murder my father, but it did not succeed. I would like society — had I been a young person without a father — to have treated me in an honourable and respectful way. I would not want society to have placed me in the same category as someone whose father had gone out with an AK47 rifle. I want society to treat victims as people with genuine needs and concerns. The Assembly and the Executive of Northern Ireland have much to do and learn about this issue, and they need to treat people with the care, respect and dignity that they deserve.

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:15 pm, 3rd April 2001

Many Members have said since lunch that they wish to speak in the debate. Should each of them attempt to speak for 15 minutes, there would be no possibility of everyone taking part.

Photo of Billy Armstrong Billy Armstrong UUP

The word "victims" covers many aspects of the past tragic 30 years. It includes innocent people who were caught up in an incident through no fault or design of their own — people getting on with everyday life and minding their own business. It also includes a father, mother or other close relative, now in the twilight of their life, who suffered mental scarring from the loss of, or injury to, a dear one — a son, daughter, husband, wife or other relative. Some victims are civilians, or ex-members of the security services, who suffered permanent injury and/or mental scarring that no amount of compensation can repair.

The term also covers people who, because of their service, had their civilian career prospects damaged. Some were made redundant because employers did not want to take the risk of their business being attacked by terrorists. The farms of some victims had to be wound up or leased out because the father or son was incapacitated or worse. These definitions cover the victims of 30 years of shooting, bombing and other barbarities that the terrorists inflicted upon the community. These are the victims who should take priority in any measures to be formulated by the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. The word "victim" also covers many other aspects of our tragic past.

We could describe victims of circumstance as those who were injured during terrorist activity, who were held in protective custody, or who absented themselves — that is, went on the run — from their place of residence. Many of those in protective custody availed of educational opportunities provided by the Government, and their next of kin were able to avail of many financial benefits.

Victims of conscience are those who choose to hold to their beliefs and ideals contrary to the laws of the land. Again, many facilities were on offer to them, but they chose to pursue their agenda of civil disobedience.

These concepts of victimhood cannot belong to the category I first described. As a direct result of the activities of victims of circumstance and conscience, the innocents I spoke of are now victims.

Photo of Gerry Kelly Gerry Kelly Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat. People often want to rewrite the causes of conflict. It is certain that in the conflict of the past 30 years or more, there were victims on all sides. In a way, that is a very simple message. People are trying to work out some sort of hierarchy of victims and survivors. We are not just talking about people who are dead. Generally speaking, we are talking about people who have survived and who need help. At times we are talking about a generational issue, something which will not just spread to friends and relatives but to children and grandchildren.

The first principle is that all sides were involved in this and everybody is affected by it. We need to take a very basic view of what a victim or a survivor is. A victim is a victim is a victim. It does not really matter to the person whether his suffering is as a result of an action of the IRA, the RUC, the British Army, or Loyalists. The loss of a father or mother is devastating no matter who carried out the killing.

Contributors have mentioned Loughgall. Let me remind Members that not everyone involved in that was armed and that people were summarily executed. They were given the coup de grâce as they lay defenceless on the ground. Let us not get on our high horse about how people died. We could debate this for five or six hours, 10 days or four months. The fact is that if people are suffering and need help, then they should be given help, no matter what part of the community they come from.

I represent north Belfast, an area which has borne the brunt of the casualties over the past 30 years. People there, whether they are Nationalist, Republican, Unionist, Catholic or Protestant, deserve the same respect that Mr Poots is talking about. Respect should not be given in some hierarchical or sectarian way. In the end, we should avoid this categorisation that everybody seems to go for and deal with victims and survivors as they are — people who are suffering and need help. Go raibh míle maith agat.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

I welcome the measure outlined by the junior Ministers. As an elected representative for Newry and Armagh, I have tried to give assistance to individuals and groups directly affected by the slaughter campaign organised and executed by the IRA, and Republicans generally, in my constituency. Having listened to their victims’ views, I know that money in itself will never ever compensate for the loss they have endured and the great suffering they have had to undergo. Our treatment of innocent victims should be a top priority for the Executive and the Assembly.

I am interested in the remarks of Mr Gerry Kelly, the Member for North Belfast, who has himself received many thousands of pounds in compensation for his perhaps questionable activities. He has certainly fared significantly better than many — [Interruption]

Photo of Gerry Kelly Gerry Kelly Sinn Féin

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Since he is making accusations, will the Member say what those questionable activities are?

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

Mr Kelly has received amounts greater than any award made to any of my constituents who have lost husbands, wives, children and loved ones.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr DUP

Does the Member agree that many victims will take it as a great insult that anyone should come to this House who, in the past, ensured not only that there were victims, but that the place where the victims were to get justice was destroyed by bomb attacks? For such a person to come and lecture people on victimhood sticks very thick in their throats.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

I take the Member’s point.

Many innocent victims throughout Northern Ireland are only now beginning to unlock the grief that has been in their hearts and stored up in their homes and families over many years. We should remember that, in the light of the ongoing political and peace processes, recent years have been particularly painful. People have shown remarkable courage in bearing their pain and in the quiet and extremely dignified way in which they have gone about rebuilding their lives, without any assistance from Government. They have had to rely on members of their family, neighbours, friends and local communities such as churches to help them to readjust their lives after their great loss.

It has already been said today that there is a clear distinction between the innocent victims of terrorism and those who, in any way, went out and planned or premeditated murder, or who died as a result of their own illegal deeds. That is a very clear distinction in the minds of most decent people.

We should consider ring-fencing the Peace II money for the real victims of terrorism. We should establish a victims’ commission, in line with the views expressed by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield in his report. I will be interested to hear in the winding-up speeches whether or not that can and will be taken on board by the Ministers. That could unlock much needed finance to victims’ groups that are being established or are up and running. Those groups are facing real staffing difficulties and difficulties in ensuring that they have the counsellors to give advice, support and help to the people who need it.

A clear programme of trained project officers should be set in place to help victims’ groups and individuals to apply for funding and help. It should cover everyone: those who lost loved ones, those who were caught up in explosions or events, and those whose lives have been considerably changed because of the trauma involved.

Photo of Mr Patrick Roche Mr Patrick Roche NIUP

Does the Member agree that if such a commission were set up, it would be very important that those involved in its work shared an understanding of victims, contrary to that displayed by Mr Maginness, whose comments were an offence to the sensibilities of decent people in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP 2:30 pm, 3rd April 2001

I am grateful to the Member for his intervention, and I accept his point. The recent announcement of increased compensation payments for RUC widows is a welcome step, which is long overdue. A proper compensation scheme also needs to be introduced for other security force members — those of the UDR, the RIR and the regular Army — so that those who wore a uniform on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland will be properly recognised for the service they have given and the sacrifices they have made.

There is a clear disparity between the funds provided for groups representing ex-paramilitary prisoners and the funding for groups that represent innocent victims. Recently, I was alarmed to read a public statement by a senior director of the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust, who at the launch of a report, ‘The Cost of Imprisonment’, said

"politically motivated ex-POWs are at the forefront and actively continuing their struggle with their clear commitments to community development".

A statement of that nature needs to be clarified, and those in a public position who distribute grants —

Photo of Ms Jane Morrice Ms Jane Morrice NIWC

It is ironic that we should talk about people in public positions who disperse grants, given that this morning the Public Accounts Committee held a press conference on the distribution of European grants and their mishandling by Departments. The Irish Sport Horse Genetic Testing Unit Limited in Fermanagh received about £3 million. Why are such points on the handling of European money not brought to the Floor of this House?

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

We are straying from the subject of the debate.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

Given Ms Morrice’s background and her undoubted connection with the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust, I will not make any comparison with the case that she raised. The Public Accounts Committee is effectively dealing with the matter she raised, as it deals with other issues.

We are debating victims and European funding. The public servant’s public remarks are, in my view, wholly inappropriate in that they highlight, in some way, a supposed contribution to society by "prisoners of war". In reality, most decent people are of the opinion that had it not been for the actions of those selfsame POWs, much misery and suffering could have been avoided.

We hear many requests for public inquiries into various cases. However, many of the victims who regularly talk to me highlight the fact that neither their loved one nor his sacrifice is ever mentioned. We appear to be in danger of remembering set-piece murders or set-piece, large-scale slaughters. Meanwhile, those innumerable people who lost loved ones and family members are being quickly forgotten. That is a huge mistake. An argument could be made for setting up a truth commission to enable us to hear of the deeds that were done in the name of Irish Nationalism and Republicanism and the glorious tales of murders by bloodthirsty killers that were carried out in the name of Ireland.

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

Mr Kennedy, may I ask you not to stray too far from the subject of the motion.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

The Assembly could do worse than to allocate Peace II money to a truth commission or to murder inquiries, especially into murders in my constituency.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr DUP

Given that other countries can bring vicious criminals before war crimes tribunals, does the Member agree that money should be set aside to examine the activities of the leaders of terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland to see whether charges could be brought against them?

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

If inquiries were established into some atrocities, they would seriously damage the reputation of people who present themselves on the world’s stage as peace players.

We welcome the announcement on European funding. We want the money to be spent wisely and properly. The First Minister and the Deputy First Minister must give an assurance that safeguards will be put in place to ensure that the money is spent in the interests of truly innocent victims. This opportunity must not be wasted. We can never compensate fully, but at least we can give recognition to the sacrifices that have been made in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years.

Photo of Mr Patrick Roche Mr Patrick Roche NIUP

Mr Deputy Speaker, can you tell the House of your thinking when you came "near" to ruling that Members were straying from the motion when it was suggested that money should be set aside to bring people before an international tribunal? Why is that irrelevant to a consideration of how to address adequately the needs of the real victims of violence in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Mr Donovan McClelland Mr Donovan McClelland Social Democratic and Labour Party

Mr Roche, I am prepared to take up the time of the House responding to a ruling that I have actually made, but I will not waste time responding to a ruling that I might have made. There is a clear distinction, and I would like you to think about it.

Photo of George Savage George Savage UUP

I support the motion. Violence has always been an unpleasant part of Irish politics, and violence has victims. For too long, Northern Ireland has had victims. We must work with all our might to sustain the political institutions that have brought peace to our Province so that Northern Ireland has no more victims of violence.

Peace will be the best memorial to the victims — the only memorial worth having. In my view it is impossible to compensate the victims of violence with mere money; that would undervalue their suffering. Monetary compensation is one small way in which we as a society can say to the victims that we understand what they have gone through and what they have suffered. It is one of the few ways in which we can register our feelings for the victims of violence, their dependants and their loved ones. We should offer such compensation humbly, recognising that it is inadequate and, at best, a poor way in which we can attempt to identify with their suffering. The cost of life has always been too great. No amount of money will ever be enough. Therefore I urge generosity in any compensation for victims of violence — nothing less will suffice.

I have listened to many speeches today and, unfortunately, at the end of a debate, there is much repetition. I urge Members to look seriously at the motion. We do not wish for victims of violence. We want to be able to put that behind us, but at the same time we want to let them know that we appreciate what they and their families have gone through.

Many people in this country have thrived because of the conflict — they have that on their consciences. What brings it home is when the door closes at night and you see the empty chair.

I was not intending to speak today, but I felt I had to say something. I served in the Ulster Defence Regiment for 13 years, and never did I see its members step out of line. I had many good friends in the force. One incident that really had an impact on me was when, one morning, my brother left to go to work and a bullet stopped the wireless in his car at 7.50 am. That was one of the longest days of my life. However, he was lucky as he survived the attack; many people were not as fortunate as he was.

About four years ago, my son was beaten up in Banbridge, which is in my constituency. It was not because of anything that he was doing — perhaps it was because I was involved in politics and it was a way of getting at me. I do not want to bring emotion into the debate; rather, I thought that I could play my part — and that is why I stood for the Assembly — to try to eliminate such incidents. I know what we as a family went through and what my brother’s family went through. People only understand when they are close to it. I hope that any compensation for victims is spent wisely and that those victims will never be forgotten.

Photo of Dr Ian Adamson Dr Ian Adamson UUP

This has generally been a good debate in which most points have been covered. It would be remiss of us not to mention prominent individuals who have given their time, effort and money to support victims and to match Government funding. I am thinking of Peter Lavery, the lottery millionaire, who has not only matched Government funding but has given a large part of his personal fortune towards the support of victims, particularly the children of the troubles. I know that everyone in the House would like to thank him for that.

It would also be remiss of us not to mention the Lavery family and others such as the prominent journalist Jim McDowell and the community activist in east Belfast Mr Sammy Douglas. I know that these individuals have provided a great deal of time and effort as well as moneys to help to support the victims of the troubles.

Photo of Derek Hussey Derek Hussey UUP 2:45 pm, 3rd April 2001

I regret that, owing to business in my constituency, I meet victims — not on this issue but on the difficulties that they face in other circumstances. I believe that one of the junior Ministers is well aware of the difficulties that victims face.

It was the murder of a very close friend of mine that brought me into politics. The area that I live in has suffered throughout the troubles. As a teacher, I have vivid memories of following the coffins of parents of the schoolchildren that I was teaching and the coffins of those that I had taught. These people had entered society, taken up a regular job in order to give something back to society and had also taken the time to serve their community through part-time membership of the security forces. As time went on I realised that there had to be another way. Like my Colleague Mr Savage I decided that coming to the Assembly and adopting that approach was a way forward. However, I also believed — and still believe — that it would be totally incongruous and outrageous for a body such as this Assembly to forget what those people have suffered.

Recently, groups representing the victims of paramilitary terrorism have begun to organise themselves. These groups have to be recognised, and I appeal to the junior Ministers to tell us how they intend to allow those groups to get onto the same footing as other long-established groups. The new groups feel that it is taking a long time to gain the same recognition and funding as the groups who represent other types of victims. It is time for the peace dividend to filter down to the victims of paramilitary terrorism.

These groups are still in their fledgling stages; they need their core workers. Their work is growing exponentially. The Ministers must be increasingly aware of this, for these groups are beginning to exhort them to give proper recognition to the people that they represent. They are establishing a growing reputation in their field, and this must be recognised. I hope that when the Ministers reply they will tell us how such groups are being recognised. I await their replies with interest, and I trust that the Assembly will never forget those who have suffered in such dastardly ways in the troubles that our community has gone through.

Photo of Dermot Nesbitt Dermot Nesbitt UUP

This is, as many people have said, a very sensitive issue. I have witnessed at very close quarters the immediate and sudden death of someone during the troubles. However, that pales into insignificance in other respects. I have not been a victim during the troubles, nor has a close relative of mine been a victim. Therefore I speak with a genuine sense of inadequacy.

I cannot for one moment comprehend the feelings of those who have lost a father, mother, or dare I say even more so, a son or daughter. You expect the next generation to outlive you; not to die before you. That must be very harrowing. I thank all the Members who contributed to the debate in a very serious way, by and large.

Mr Kennedy said that we can never compensate victims, but we can, at least, recognise what they are going through. Money is no compensation. In recognising that, we also acknowledge the significant monetary contribution that is now available to help victims in some small way. For the first time there will be a specific amount of money available solely for victims. In that respect, Peace II differs from Peace I. Victims will not be in competition with others, such as community groups that wish to utilise European money. The specific money for victims is to be welcomed.

Although the use of the money is yet to be fully determined, it will provide a source of practical assistance to victims. It will certainly be used in training and in re-employment. Above all, it will be used in giving practical assistance to victims.

We thank the European Union and the MEPs who contributed towards gaining this funding. We thank them for the serious contribution, made through Peace II, to the provision of funding. In the same breath, I must mention the Executive and this Administration. We are taking this matter seriously and are endeavouring to develop a strategy for victims and to identify their needs.

We will be undertaking widespread consultation. I ask each Member, especially those who feel that their communities have not been fully represented, to facilitate that consultation and encourage people to respond to it. People should make known to us what they want put in place when this money is spent. That is a genuine request from Mr Haughey and myself.

Mr Boyd and Mrs Iris Robinson mentioned the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust. There will be an intermediate funding body appointed to handle grant application, processing and the award aspects of Peace II. It is anticipated that that body will be appointed within two to three months through open competition.

I hasten to add that the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister will be very closely involved in determining the mechanisms and in monitoring all stages of how the money is used, once the new intermediate funding body has been appointed.

People might think that I am offloading accountability onto someone else. However, this Administration — the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister in particular —has had no input into the previous elements of funding and the core funding scheme. We will now have responsibility for the new intermediate funding body and for our funding for it. Peace II accounts for about £7 million, of which £1·6 million will come from the Executive. That should answer Mr Poots’s question about complementarity. Therefore funding from the Executive and Europe will be combined.

Responsibility for the management of victims’ funding will fall to the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, and clear criteria will be agreed with the Department of Finance and Personnel. I am conscious of the point that Mrs Nelis made about bureaucracy; I shall not allow bureaucracy to be the tail that wags the dog. We must ensure that the money is fed down to those in need — the victims.

Mr Beggs asked about the geographical distribution of funding. Our purpose will be to meet the needs of all victims, regardless of where they are, and to give equal opportunities to all. Members who feel that their area has not been well represented should help us to ensure that those areas contribute to the development of the strategy. Mr Beggs also spoke about ongoing acts of violence. We will recognise the needs of victims of such acts; they must be included.

Mr Berry raised the sensitive issue of the treatment of widows of members of the RUC. They will receive practical help under Peace II. All victims and their families will be eligible, and that includes, without doubt, the security forces. Mr Watson raised the sensitive issue of compensation. I do not wish to disown the matter, but I must state clearly that compensation is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Office. Nevertheless, Mr Haughey and I will press the issue of compensation at the regular meetings that we have with Mr Ingram and the NIO.

Mr Berry asked about the certainty of funding for the future. That is important. It is not enough to have money now; we must have certainty about the availability of funding in the future. I welcome the announcement that there will be £500,000 per year for the next three years from the Executive’s social inclusion fund.

Mr Ervine and Mr Alban Maginness raised the issue of practical assistance to individuals. That has been a recurring theme, and, at the outset, I said that it was individuals who needed the assistance. This matter is connected to the issue of bureaucracy and the mechanisms that the intermediate funding body will operate under, with the agreement of the Department of Finance and Personnel. In order for us to give practical assistance, individuals must tell me what is needed. We will conduct research to meet as many victims as possible to get their views about what they need. We will undertake that research shortly; Members’ help would be appreciated in that as well.

The subject of individual victims leads me to the needs of victims — something that was raised by Mr Beggs and Mr Shannon. We are consulting on that, but there are certain general comments that I can make at this stage.

One theme that came through this afternoon and this morning was that ex-prisoners’ associations are well organised and can utilise funding, whereas other groups are not. How can we give that assistance? I hope that we will be able to develop a strategy to help those who do not have the apparatus to make a claim or to apply for funding.

Core staff was mentioned; that is important as well. The core staff must be maintained. One sensitive element that came through — I keep using the word "sensitive", but all of what we are talking about is sensitive — was mentioned by Mr Shannon, Mrs Iris Robinson and Mr Berry, to name but three, and that is ex-prisoners’ groups and their involvement. Let me make it clear — the Peace II programme contains a measure specifically for victims; it is called Victims and Survivors of Violence. Ex-prisoners’ groups are not eligible for that. They may — to be up front about it — be eligible for support under other measures in the programme, but not under the victims aspect of the measure. I understand — [Interruption]

Photo of Dermot Nesbitt Dermot Nesbitt UUP

I understand the strength of feeling in communities, no matter what side a person is on. Although I understand, as I said at the outset, I do not speak as one who has been directly affected by violence. My understanding is that of someone who has been able to stand back from events, so to speak. Those who have been affected articulate the hurt, and it is for us as Assembly Members to reflect that hurt, suffering and the needs of victims. However, our task — and it may not be accepted by all — is to give effect to the Belfast Agreement and to address the needs of all victims fairly, honestly and openly as described in that agreement. That is what I am charged with, and that is what this Administration is charged with.

There are many parties here, and if we are to move beyond conflict and truly reconcile — my party Colleague George Savage reflected on this accurately and pointedly a few minutes ago — we must take on board the needs of all.

One difficulty that I have in politics is meeting victims. A DUP Member said earlier that the victims of violence feel full of hurt and alienated, and Alban Maginness referred to another argument. I also hear the two arguments. Some people ask me how I can be in the Administration. Others say exactly what Mr Savage said: "You must continue in the Administration so that others do not suffer what we have suffered." It is for the latter reason that I stand here today, and that is why I mentioned what Mr Savage said in his concluding comments.

Alban Maginness mentioned a memorial or an archive. We are aware of that suggestion, and it is in keeping with the recommendations of the Bloomfield Report. It could be a demonstrable way of showing something on a permanent basis, but we must give it careful consideration.

We need to take on board the views of victims and their representatives when deciding what we should do. We must be conscious that the priority is to give practical help to support victims. Perhaps the money should not be spent on some form of archive. It is something that needs to be, and will be, thought through carefully.

Two types of commission were mentioned. That needs careful consideration. What role should a commissioner play in general? More specifically, what roles would a commissioner for victims or a truth commissioner play? Should the money be used for that? We have not reached a firm conclusion. We are debating the issue, and we will be consulting the Northern Ireland Office.

The truth commission is an equally delicate matter. There could be advantages and disadvantages to such a commission. There have been references to the many difficulties experienced by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. My Colleague Mr Haughey has been speaking to its vice-chairman, Alex Boraine, and we are taking on board his experiences. It is something that we are considering. We are treading very sensitively and, I hope, very sensibly.

The experiences of the victims will remain with them for many years to come. I hope that we will not have to witness new victims being created in the same way that they have been in the past. That is why I am here. That is why this Assembly and this Administration are here. That is why we — Mr Haughey and myself in the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, and others in this Assembly — are endeavouring to do our best for victims.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved:

That this Assembly welcomes the inclusion of a specific measure for victims in the European Peace II programme.

(Madam Deputy Speaker [Ms Morrice] in the Chair)