It is extraordinary that commissioner did not attend victims’ event

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The victims commissioner Judith Thompson was quoted in much of the media yesterday morning calling for processes to ensure that the British state does not hide embarrassing Troubles files.

“Transparency is key to this which is why my recommendations address the need to ensure that any application of national security and Official Secrets Act restrictions have strict limitations and a robust appeals process,” she said.

The IRA often makes this claim about Britain, hoping that it will divulge files that will indeed damage national security.

Ms Thompson has a responsibility to all victims, including those from a republican background, so she has to reflect a wide range of concerns. But the great bulk of victims are victims of terror. Yet yesterday she did not even attend a highly charged victims event at Stormont, represented by all the mainstream political parties which repudiate terrorism (including a passionate denunciation of paramilitary murder from the SDLP MLA Pat Catney). All present condemned the San Francisco honour granted to Martin McGuinness.

The event was so important to people damaged by terrorism that two meetings had to be heard in quick succession, in which survivors told their harrowing story, including Seamus McDonald, who recounted the nightmare of his parents being murdered by loyalists at his home when he was two.

It is quite extraordinary that Ms Thompson did not attend this European Remembrance Day for Victims of Terrorism event. Her office say that she attended last year, as if that is relevant, and that this year it “coincided with the launch of the commission’s policy advice” on legacy. But why did it coincide with that? Victims day is an annual event and known about well in advance. It would not be hard to attend such an important and brief event once every 12 months.

On the very day that the victims of terror were being remembered Ms Thompson was issuing statements about failures of a state that did so much to try to stop those murderers.