Perpetrators of Troubles bloodshed are not the ones who matter: their victims are

A letter from Axel Schmidt:

By Letters
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 12:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 12:13 am
Axel Schmidt has said for too long people like wounded police have been ‘unheard’ (above is the scene of a fatal attack on RUC officers in Londonderry in 1994)
Axel Schmidt has said for too long people like wounded police have been ‘unheard’ (above is the scene of a fatal attack on RUC officers in Londonderry in 1994)

Ulster Human Rights Watch has teamed up with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) to give a ‘platform’ to people to tell their harrowing stories about what terrorists did to them and their families.

Nine accounts are on the PRONI website (e-Catalogue, Ref 4791/1 -9) which graphically and factually recount what happened.

The stories feature, for examples, a sister whose school teacher brother was gunned down at the top of the stairs in their home.

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Letter to the editor

Another victim, a young woman on a bus, was burned by a petrol bomb and died a short while after. And a third, a baby, was killed in his pram by a terrorist bomb placed at a furniture store.

Victims and survivors tell it as it was. Many years later, they still revisit with vivid clarity the hour, the day, the month they were robbed of a loved one for no reason whatsoever.

The killers are long since out of jail and getting on with their lives but for many innocent victims suffering appalling physical injuries and debilitating psychological conditions, time stands still.

For them, there is no early release date, no amnesty, no line in the sand and no forgetting what happened. They are the permanent victims of ‘The Troubles’ where, for many, closure remains elusive.

This collaboration with PRONI is a first for us and we would like to see this developed further. In coming months, we believe the Legacy of the Past Record could be expanded to include other victims.

Work of this nature addresses a deficit and a dreadful shortcoming in how we deal with the past and what decent people had to endure.

For too long, the voice of the mother who lost a son or daughter or a police officer or soldier who was left permanently disabled from an under-car booby-trap bomb went unheard and unheeded. Now, at long last, people who were the innocent victims of a senseless and futile ‘war’ are given the opportunity to balance the books, as it were.

They will inject objectivity and honesty into the public square and they must be listened to by those in power.

They are also a primary first-hand source for serious students of history committed to exploring the unvarnished truth of what happened in Northern Ireland for more than a quarter century.

The perpetrators of some of the vilest crimes are not the ones who matter.

No, the people they maimed and murdered, and their families, are the ones who matter and deserve respect and practical assistance.

Axel Schmidt, UHRW advocacy manager

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