Alliance Party Spokesperson for Victims and Survivors, Eileen Bell MLA, has urged the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Peter Hain, to remember that before reconciliation can take place, acknowledgement of the hurt and suffering caused has to be declared. Mrs Bell was responding the the Secretary’s comments on healing the scars of terrorism in Northern Ireland.
Eileen Bell said:
“It is positive that the Secretary of State recognises the need for reconciliation in Northern Ireland, as well as the need for the IRA to acknowledge the pain and suffering that it is responsible for. This is not to excuse other actors from their responsibilities.
“Yet before reconciliation can take place, this acknowledgement by the IRA needs to be made. The IRA’s recent statement that ‘many people suffered’ is not enough.
“A South African-style truth and reconciliation process is unlikely to be successful here. First, there is no incentive for those who perpetuated crimes to come forward to confess; they have already been released from custody. Second, there is no consensus on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland; the Republican movement still seeks to end British rule. Third, the IRA still believes that its armed struggle was ‘entirely legitimate’. The contrast with South Africa couldn’t be starker.
“Instead, Alliance has proposed the creation of a Victims’ Forum, to give victims the opportunity to place their stories on an official record.
“Likewise, Alliance is opposed to any amnesty for criminal offences committed by any individual. European human rights law is clear that every victim has the right to expect the state to pursue justice for any wrong committed against them or their loved ones. The British Government must not forget this human right when it intends to introduce legislation later this year to address ‘On The Runs’.”