The former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service has said that many border families regard themselves as victims of IRA “ethnic cleansing”.
Speaking to the News Letter at the 40th anniversary of the Kingsmills massacre, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield said that when appointed victims’ commissioner in 1997 he found the most gravely affected victims were, of course, the dead and those who mourned for them. He also worked on the issue of ‘the Disappeared’.
“But others, while escaping death or injury, had seen their lives painfully disrupted. On a visit to Enniskillen, I was faced with evidence of the special burden borne by too many families with farms adjacent to the border. Those who had felt compelled to abandon home and farm for greater safety clearly regarded themselves as local victims of ‘ethnic cleansing’.”
Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said the Kingsmills situation is replicated across the border counties; such victims now ask for a formal acknowledgement of their hurt, the injustices they suffered and that they bore the bloodshed with dignity – refusing retaliation or vengeance.
“Such victims have been all but abandoned by the political system. A calculated decision has been taken that Northern Ireland must move forward ‘politically’ in spite of their needs. They were used as collateral damage, their kith and kin held the line in preventing terrorism from bringing this place to the point of civil war.”
Other border IRA victims have empathised with the Kingsmills families’ feelings of abandonment.
John Sproule’s brother Ian, a civilian, was murdered in Castlederg in 1991.
His brother was mistakenly questioned about loyalist terror activity and was never charged, he said yesterday. But the RUC passed the file to Gardai and masked IRA men later held it up on television.
“The fact is there was collusion,” he said, “But there is nobody fighting our corner.
“We feel especially that the border Protestant community has been forgotten about.”
If the British state is being quizzed, then Martin McGuinness should be also, he added.
Sylvia Porter’s brother Olven Kilpatrick, a UDR soldier, was gunned down by the IRA in his shoe shop in Castlederg in 1990.
“Victims are just left behind in this peace [process],” she said. “Prisoners are released and my brother’s killers could be walking our streets for all I know.
“I feel alienated if I talk about the past. People think you are being bitter but they don’t understand because it has not happened to them. You never come to terms with something like that.”
She now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress syndrome.
“Nobody has the right to play God on any side of the community. But now they have got a pat on the back and are sitting in government.”
Richard Bell‘s brother Robin, a UDR soldier, was killed by the IRA in 1972 at Newtownbutler.
“Many Protestants were killed in this area who were not in the UDR. It was ethnic cleansing.
“As far as peace goes, it is peace at a price. The terrorists are sitting in government and the British give them everything due to the threat of violence.
“There are no terror charges and they have an amnesty in the form of letters of comfort.”