We are open to idea of victims’ candidate in West Tyrone

Kenny Donaldson, director of services at Innocent Victims united, in front of a quilt made by family members from Fermanagh who lost loved ones in Troubles terrorism. 'Picture Colm O'Reilly Press Eye 2015
Kenny Donaldson, director of services at Innocent Victims united, in front of a quilt made by family members from Fermanagh who lost loved ones in Troubles terrorism. 'Picture Colm O'Reilly Press Eye 2015

In the aftermath of the resignation of Barry McElduff over the incident in which he balanced Kingsmill loaf on his head on the anniversary of the massacre at Kingsmill there has been significant speculation around the possibility of an agreed ‘victims candidate’ who could contest an upcoming Westminster by-election.

Some have already asked, is such a notion even viable?

Others still have suggested that there could be a toxicity to such an approach and then others have begun to speculate as to who a likely candidate would even be.

For us within Innocent Victims United we would appeal for political parties to honestly consider the following questions:

1. Do they consider that victims’ issues receive the dedicated focus they should within Westminster?

2. Do they consider victims’ issues to be bigger than party political self interest?

3. Do they believe that West Tyrone deserves representation and a voice at Westminster, particularly as a border constituency around matters such as Brexit?

If the answer to these questions is No, Yes and Yes then a way must be found to secure a candidate who can command respect across the community and truly represent victims’ issues but also issues which impact upon the social-economic wellbeing of West Tyrone inhabitants.

Northern Ireland is Balkanised politically at Westminster level, the entirety of the west of Northern Ireland and a substantive section of the southern corner of Northern Ireland is ‘represented’ by a pro-abstentionist party – Sinn Fein.

This means that these communities are without effective leadership at Westminster level – is that really good enough?

We do not subscribe to the view that the election need be toxic, the victims’ issues which would arise within any campaign run way beyond the events of recent weeks.

The issues that require focus include; effective health and wellbeing and welfare services, reparation packages for victims/survivors being progressed, exposing and working towards redressing the justice deficit experienced by victims of terrorism.

IVU supports the principle of raising victims’ issues within the political agenda, we also support the principles of democracy and we are pro representation.

Furthermore IVU continues to insist that the means to which we might bring about societal and individual reconciliation requires states, proscribed organisations and their political party annexes to show courage in affirming that:

“We accept that no grievance, enmity or political objective justified the use of criminal violence in what became known as; The Northern Ireland Troubles”.

If this foundation stone was in place then there is the potential to meaningfully deal with the legacy of the past as well as smash the justification for future violence.

Let’s be clear violence and civil strife stymied this place and its people for generations, isn’t it time that people were given something better?

This is our challenge to the political parties, go now and find a candidate.

• Kenny Donaldson is spokesman at Innocent Victims United. It is an umbrella organisation for 23 member groups base across Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, which collectively support 11,500+ victims and survivors (including many in West Tyrone constituency)