ALLIANCE Victims’ Spokesperson Eileen Bell MLA has said any Victims and Survivors Commissioner could have a major role in helping people come to terms with the past, and help lay some of the foundations for future reconciliation at the proposed Maze centre for conflict transformation.
Speaking after the Secretary of State announced proposals for a Commissioner as part of a consultation on the future of services for victims and survivors, Mrs Bell, Alliance’s Deputy Leader and a victim of serious paramilitary intimidation in the past, stated:
“In Alliance’s submission to the Government on dealing with victims, we called for a Commissioner, and said that a Victims’ Forum should be considered as a possible way forward. The stories of victims deserve to be heard, and there is still a real need for the past to be dealt with.
“Victims and survivors are a diverse group. Different people have different needs, although many feel neglected. Today’s announcement is welcome, but why did we have to wait so long? Even England has made greater progress towards appointing a Commissioner, despite the greatest need being here.
“I believe there could be a significant role for a independent Victims’ Commissioner to play in the planning of the centre for conflict transformation on the former Maze prison site. The centre could play a constructive role in ensuring that the voices of survivors are heard and the memory of victims remembered.
“Many bereaved relatives of the victims of terrorism have been disappointed that their efforts to find justice have been too easily dismissed or ignored by the police, Government or paramilitary groups. There are hundreds of victims whose relatives will never get a public inquiry, but they also deserve to hear the truth, and the Commissioner should be their voice.
“I would also urge whoever is appointed to the position to use their influence to assist the families of the ‘Disappeared’, as it is clear that the Government and IRA has forgotten about them.
“Despite their rhetoric, some parties have been intent on creating a hierarchy of victims. I hope the appointment of a Victims’ Commissioner will help create a more level playing field and help address that imbalance.”