‘Exiles may have gone – but the issue hasn’t’

Alliance Deputy Leader Eileen Bell has said that ending the practice of paramilitary exiling is a necessary ‘act of completion’ if the Northern Ireland peace process is to succeed. The Alliance Victims’ Spokesperson was speaking ahead of an event in the House of Lords to highlight the issue of forcible exile by paramilitaries.

Mrs Bell, who spent six years in England after paramilitaries intimidated her from her west Belfast home in the 1970s, said there needed to be a more co-ordinated approach to how exiles were dealt with by the authorities when they arrived in a new area.

Mrs Bell said: “Those who have been exiled by paramilitaries are the forgotten victims of the Troubles, and if we are to leave the violence of the past behind, then this evil practice must end. The exiles may have gone away, but the issue of exiling hasn’t.

“Thousands of people have been put out of Northern Ireland over the years. I can say from my own experiences, both as someone who has been at the receiving end of intimidation and who has campaigned to end exiling, that it has no place in the society we are trying to build.

“It is also clear that too little has been done for the paramilitary victims who have ended up in unfamiliar surroundings, often at short notice. I would back calls for a co-ordinating office to deal with exiles to be set up, as has been done for ETA victims in Spain. For too long this has been an issue that has been brushed under the carpet. It is time for the paramilitaries to realise that no-one has a right to put anyone out of their home.”

Eileen Bell will be a guest of Baroness Park of Monmouth at the House of Lords tomorrow, which also involves Maranatha, a Christian community that assists paramilitary exiles.


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