One of the most prominent groups representing victims of terrorism has accused those running the Haass talks process of snubbing them.
Innocent Victims United (IVU), which claims to represent about 11,000 innocent victims, most of whom suffered at the hands of republicans, said that for two months it had been attempting to meet Richard Haass.
The group said that it had been attempting to meet the US diplomat but had repeatedly been told that a meeting would not be possible until at least the end of November — just weeks before the end of the talks process.
Kenny Donaldson of IVU said: “Our members are becoming extremely frustrated and are asking questions such as: just who is the Haass process for and how ‘inclusive’ is the process?
“They also wonder; what criteria exists for a meeting to be granted, is it the case that having a private army at your disposal is a benefit in being taken seriously?”
“Many of our members have expressed the view that they feel they are being excluded because a narrative and blueprint may already have been agreed which further sacrifices their core beliefs around the need for Justice and morality to be re-instated within peace and political processes...innocent victims and survivors of terrorism feel that their views don’t count.”
A spokeswoman for the talks process said that “every effort” would be made for the group to meet Meghan O’Sullivan, Dr Haass’s deputy, over coming weeks.
Yesterday Dr Haass met Victims’ Commissioner Kathryn Stone and members of the Victims’ Forum, which is appointed by the commission.
Dr Haass or Dr O’Sullivan have also met Healing Through Remembering and Relatives For Justice.
Mr Donaldson said that ever since Ms Stone refused to say whether the IRA or UVF were terrorists many victims no longer believed that she represented their views.
He said that no group desired a just peace more than those who suffered most during the Troubles but added: “Our constituency of victims/survivors are also very clear that the Victims Commission and commissioner Stone does not have their confidence to reflect their views.”
He added that many of those in the south and west of Northern Ireland also felt that the process was “Belfast centric”.