The narrative of victims of terrorist and criminal violence in Northern Ireland is under attack from many directions and must be combated going forward, an audience in Fermanagh has been told.
Kenny Donaldson, director of services of the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), made the point in a speech about future vision during its 20th anniversary service at the Archdale Hall in Lisnaskea on Tuesday night.
SEFF now has 17 staff and 110 volunteers serving 1,020 members and associated family members and supporters across NI, the Republic of Ireland, GB and Spain.
“Ruth Dudley Edwards paid us perhaps the best compliment anyone ever has when she spoke of her pride in addressing a meeting by ‘a wee group from Fermanagh which punches well above its weight’,” Mr Donaldson told those gathered to celebrate their journey over 20 years.
“Friends, that is what we must continue to strive to achieve, never resting on our laurels or patting ourselves on the back, we have hard slog ahead and our narrative and principled stand is under attack from very many organisations and individuals. We must be forever alive to this threat and be able to act accordingly.”
Among those attending were victims and their supporters from across the British Isles, elected representatives, senior civil servants and journalists.
The service was conducted by Rev Alan Capper and Rev Alan Irwin, interspersed with prayers, hymns, readings and the SEFF Youth Choir, which is made up of young people who lost loved ones to terrorism.
Mr Donaldson added: “SEFF is a family of diverse individuals who all share a commonality, a principle which is not for sale; that being that the sanctity of human life must be protected and that it is not for any man or woman to take the life of another through an act of premeditated terrorism or criminal violence.
“This principle transcends religion, race and all other division groupings. SEFF unashamedly challenges what is wrong; we do not take the easy road that many others do, that path of least resistance. We have done and will continue to challenge those who have bought into the narrative that the price of peace is the buying off of terrorism and the empowerment of its political annexes.”
SEFF is now an international network, he said, which is about legacy building, education, influencing government policy and delivering for “the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism and other Troubles-related criminal violence”.
The organisation has recently opened offices in London and Newtownstewart and is considering another in south Down.
SEFF chairman Eric Brown said that the organisation began with three people in his house only hours after the Omagh bombing in 1998.
“Arguably SEFF’s greatest strength is its volunteer base which is an army of over 110 people,” he said. “They are the fuel which enables the engine to run.”