Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer has pledged to work with Sinn Fein for a shared future – if those members “with blood on their hands” from the past step aside.
He was speaking the week after former IRA commander Martin McGuinness addressed a victims’ conference in Belfast, prompting victims to complain that he had called on the UK to open its security files while neglecting to mention his own IRA past.
Mr Frazer attended the same conference. “Out of some 200 people [on the first day] only around 30 were victims. The rest were civil servants, policy makers, academics and lawyers. There are less and less victims want to attend every year,” he said.
“Martin McGuinness gave a speech recognising International Women’s Day – the hypocrisy of it, considering the number of widows and mothers without sons his organisation left behind.”
On the way forward, Mr Frazer said: “The high-ranking Shinners must be seen to go out of the equation. It would make a huge difference to victims like us because they have blood on their hands.”
He noted that other people from the same era had already left politics, including the late Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Alban Maginnis, who is about to retire.
“We will not agree with the new Sinn Fein members, but we will talk to them.”
Sinn Fein councillor Tony McCaul said recently that a return to IRA violence could not be ruled out, which he later retracted; Mr Frazer believes that Sinn Fein ultimately still holds to this position “if they don’t get what they want politically”.
He is open to the international truth and reconciliation model where victims explain the impact of murders, perpetrators then show remorse and are forgiven by victims.
In the case of his father’s killer “it would be very hard to do, but if it was genuine remorse and they really wanted forgiveness, you would have to do it as a Christian”.
Perpetrators – of whatever political background – should be processed judicially even if they serve no sentence, he said, but he does not see republicans buying it.
“There never was justification for violence but they have to legitimise it to justify it.”
The current legal definition of victim, which equates killers with their victims, is also storing up trouble, he believes.
“Everyone knows they won’t change it because of the peace process. But this legitimises violence. If history records that the IRA man was just as much a victim as the police or soldier he shot – there is no doubt about it – this will encourage dissident violence.”