Furious terror victims have pressed Jonathan Powell to explain how and when they will be “brought in from the cold” with a victim-centred initiative.
Their reaction comes after his suggestion on Wednesday night that the IRA should be made legal, and follows an initiative he spearheaded earlier this week to integrate the leadership of loyalist paramilitary organisations into society.
His IRA suggestion is all the more controversial because the PSNI say the IRA leadership structure still exists and that individual members were recently involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan, prompting a political crisis.
David Temple, whose brother William was killed in the IRA Claudy bombing in 1972, was horrified by Mr Powell’s interventions on paramilitarism this week.
“I lost my brother in the Claudy bombing – he was only 16,” he said. “Where is this all going to stop? Jonathan Powell is saying that if you lifted the gun or bomb you are right – but what is he going to do for the victims? It looks to me that the ones who did all the killing are getting all the help while we are forgotten.”
Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said that some commentators are suggesting that Mr Powell’s intervention is “almost an acknowledgment on the part of the Blair Government that ‘loyalists’ have been left out in the cold since 1998”.
“IVU asks Mr Powell; when will he and Tony Blair or any Westminster Government for that matter deal with the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism who remain out in the cold, increasingly being treated as pariahs?”
He added: “The facts are that the IRA murdered 2,000 men, women and children.”
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer said: “People who are normally completely civil have been ringing in furious. What on earth is going on among the media and politicians?”
He said money planned for the loyalist initiative should instead be given to policing.
Mr Powell, a key adviser to Tony Blair in talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement, caused strong reactions after suggesting that the IRA should be legalised.
Speaking on the Nolan Show on Wednesday night, Mr Powell, pictured, said that while paramilitary violence should end, the question of whether paramilitary organisations should go away “is another matter”.
“You don’t really want the names of the organisations being taken over by other, more violent men,” he said.
“You don’t want their brand taken over by someone else.”
He suggested that terror groups could instead become involved in preserving history and culture.
“I don’t think it matters whether the IRA’s gone away.
“If the IRA is there as a veterans’ organisation, why does that matter? Why not legalise it?”