Victims ‘concerns at being used’ by politicians

Commissioner for Victims and Survivors Judith Thompson. 
Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Commissioner for Victims and Survivors Judith Thompson. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

Victims of the Troubles have raised concerns they are being used to add legitimacy to differing political views.

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson said they are often frustrated by the portrayal they cannot agree on a way forward.

“Too often in their view in politics and in media the voices of different victims are used to add legitimacy to differing political views,” Ms Thompson said.

“Victims and survivors find themselves, and they often are frustrated by this, used to illustrate divergent political narratives, often ones which they themselves do not fully agree with.

“It creates, I think, often, a perception that victims and survivors cannot agree with each other about the way forward.

“My experience and of the commission is very different.”

Ms Thompson raised the concerns at the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in Leinster House in Dublin.

One of Ms Thompson’s roles is to oversee the Victims Forum, a representative body made up of people from all sides of the conflict who have lost loved ones.

Last year its members were said to be united in opposition to a proposed amnesty for security force members who served during the Troubles.

The forum, which includes ex-soldiers, also said there should be no statute of limitations on prosecutions for legacy cases.

Ms Thompson said her first address to the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement was timely given the 20th anniversary of the accord in April.

She said there was a high level of frustration amongst victims because of the delays in the consultation process getting under way.

“To some extent obviously we recognise that those delays are related to a current political impasse and to other political events recently,” Ms Thompson said.

She said it was vitally important a historical investigations unit, a body independent of police, be set up to investigate outstanding Troubles deaths.

“That is not to say that we expect the outcome of this to be a large number of prosecutions, we do not given the time that’s gone,” she said, adding the value of such a unit would be evidence-based reports for families who deserve to know the truth of what happened.