The last week’s pension debacle has brought a further level of re-traumatisation to innocent victims/survivors of terrorism.
A large part of this trauma could have been avoided had there been effective leaders and decision makers in place within this country to carry out the roles which they are in place to fulfil.
Let me again state at the outset that Innocent Victims United (a consortium of 23 victim/survivor groups based across Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland) have like others expressed the need for victims and survivors to receive effective financial support for criminal wrongs visited upon them and their families.
We have supported the seriously injured receiving a special pension and we have also sought to raise the plight of the bereaved (and the pitiful compensation paid to widows and children particularly in the 1970s and 80s).
We have also repeatedly raised the issue of displacement with both the UK and Republic of Ireland governments and the need for those forced from their homes because of ethnic and/or sectarian hatred also to be compensated for financial losses incurred.
Meanwhile we continue to pursue the discrimination experienced by a cohort of 300 war widows who lost their pension when they remarried.
We also support the efforts of member groups in their campaigns in pursuing recognition and compensation, ie those who continue to be discriminated against following the Patten settlement on policing.
We welcome the words from the government ministers Lord Duncan and John Penrose in recent days who have sought to give some reassurance on the government’s position as to who would benefit from the seriously injured pension.
However, for us words alone will not cut it.
We will reserve judgement until we see the final legislation and its outworkings.
Innocent victims have been given empty promises for two plus decades and are at a point where they will not give unqualified trust.
The way in which the pension issue and wider issues can be resolved is through the UK urgently bringing forward legislation defining ‘victim of terrorism’ in a UK-wide context.
This definition must explicitly remove terrorists/perpetrators.
And to be clear; the call 14 groups made for the Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson to resign stands.
We are grateful for those political parties (Ulster Unionist Party and TUV) and other stakeholders who have offered their public support to us and we implore others to do the right thing and join that chorus.
Be clear, we have no trust or confidence in someone who repeatedly advocates a fringe position and who refuses to represent the will and views of the majority.
The facts remain that the commissioner has advocated for a pension that would also include terrorists/perpetrators.
Whatever government ultimately does, the realities of the commissioner’s position has not changed.
This pension debacle is but the straw that has broken the camel’s back, there are litany of issues of concern that the innocent victims community have stretching over the four year long period since the commissioner took up post, ie appointment of those with serious criminal convictions (Troubles related) on to the Victims Forum.
We believe she has failed to fulfil her responsibilities under statute to act as an independent voice in challenging the status quo and reflecting the majority held position of victims/survivors whether that’s concerning the definition issue or otherwise.
We will not be cast by official representatives of the Provisional republican movement or their hawks who occupy positions across other strata of society as the trouble makers, as being anti-peace and reconciliation.
We’ve had enough of that, we stand for what is right and we are consistent in our position concerning terrorism and criminal violence irrespective of who the perpetrators are.
The groundswell of ordinary yet extraordinary people coming forward and speaking out for the first time (in many cases) over the last week is proof positive that our society needs to take along hard look at itself.
We need commissioners, politicians, church leaders and others in positions of influence to finally loosen the shackles of appeasement and stand up for what is right.
Terrorists and perpetrators are not victims, they made a human choice and they are responsible for their own actions.
Those who were subjected to their criminal actions are the victims - they are the innocent.
• Kenny Donaldson is spokesman for Innocent Victims United (IVU)