Motion 3: Victims
- Conference believes that the needs and concerns of victims have been neglected within the political process.
- Conference demands that the Governments increase the funding provided to existing victims’ organisations.
- Conference recognises that there is a very active but fragmented debate on how to best deal with the past.
- Conference calls upon the Governments to establish a taskforce to determine the most appropriate means to deal with this issue, but does not believe that formal legal enquiries are necessarily beneficial.
Proposer, Eileen Bell, said:
Since the Good Friday Agreement, our society has tried, on many different levels, to redress the wrongs of the years of conflict, but we must remember that during the Troubles there was little or no support of any kind for victims from government.
Widows left to rear young families received little or no counselling except for those who chose to come to myself and colleagues in organisations such as Women Together for Peace and the Peace People. We may have many organisations now for victims, trauma centres, Victims’ Liaison Units and the OFM/DFM units but there are still widespread feelings of being ignored or not being helped appropriately.
One can hear this every day in informal drop-in centres of groups such as the Shankill Stress and Trauma Centre, which was set up in the aftermath of the Shankill bomb. Time-limiting these groups is totally unacceptable and could greatly set back those in need.
We must listen to these people and set up some form of task force, primarily victim-led with a clearly structured Code of Practice drawn up, once again, by those who have been in the thick of it.
A lot of work, yes, and a lot of money, but the challenge must be met head on, to gain a more positive response throughout society to constructively help our fellow citizens who have suffered. Existing groups like Wave and the Shankill Stress and Trauma Centre can provide guidance regarding direct action, and a public invitation should be issued to individuals who have fought shy of the very counselling they need, to come in from the cold and benefit from the service they should have had long ago.
The resolution is lent urgency however by the concerns of victims/survivors and facts clearly show that the so-called informal justice system remains part of everyday reality in some communities.
The one absolute truth is that too many people suffered and are suffering, too many people died and are still dying. Political parties must play their part by lobbying for funding to achieve this, support must be given to all victims no matter whence they come; we must do away with the current hierarchy of victims. Victims must be kept in the forefront of the political mind until the problem is properly and adequately addressed.
Seconder, Patricia Mallon, said:
Much as everyone in Northern Ireland might aspire to ‘draw a line’ under the past and ‘move on’, the experience of the years since the ceasefires and the Agreement tells us that this is an unrealistic expectation.
It reflects the reality that life is no blank sheet but draws on the past and contributes to our future. Many current issues therefore are rooted in baggage from the past as well as the need in some cases to seek ‘truth and justice’. Furthermore, it is impossible to quantify the long-term psychological and emotional impact on individuals and society.
Interventions cannot wait for political stalemates to be overcome, especially as the past is clearly inhibiting attempts to transform NI into a peaceful, democratic society. Conference therefore calls on the two governments to set up a task force to produce a coherent framework guiding a wide-ranging process of reconciliation.