‘Victims must be considered, respected - and heard’

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ANN Travers is calling for 2013 to be the year “to deal with the nitty gritty uncomfortable parts of our past”.

She has spoken in light of recent events – including the naming of a children’s playpark after an IRA terrorist and the dispute over the flying of the Union Flag.

She said: “I hope that politicians have learnt a lot over the last number of months.”

Ann firmly believes it is time politicians were more mindful of the repercussions their decisions have.

Last month, nationalist councillors on Newry and Mourne Council voted to keep the name of a children’s playpark as the Raymond McCreesh Park.

McCreesh, from Camlough, south Armagh, was a convicted terrorist. He died in the Maze after 61 days on hunger strike in 1981.

Twenty nationalist councillors, including two independents, voted to uphold the decision to grant the application for the renaming.

Just before Christmas, Ann contacted the News Letter by Twitter to make a special plea to Newry councillors to hold a cross-community competition this month for all pre-school and primary school children to choose a new name for this playground.

Meanwhile, last month there had been almost daily protests across Northern Ireland over the decision by Belfast City Council to remove the Union Flag from its permanent position at Belfast City Hall.

Nationalists on Belfast City Council had wanted the Union Flag taken down altogether, but in the end voted on a compromise from the Alliance Party that it would fly on designated days.

“I think politicians need to look at how different decisions are made and how it affects victims,” Ann said.

“I know how the Raymond McCreesh park naming has impacted on families. I don’t think politicians have really thought about that at all. And it is necessary that they do think about it.

“And I can understand the hurt people feel as well over the flying of the flag.

“It is about trying to be considerate and moving the process forward slowly and not trying to rush things too fast.”

Ann continued: “The people of Northern Ireland have been through a lot over the last 40 years and a lot of healing must still take place.

“For this to happen politicians must be more careful of their language, they must show consideration and respect to victims of terrorist violence and not be afraid to answer families’ questions honestly and promptly.

“Those innocent families who were also hurt by the state must also receive the answers that they search for.

“Victims must be considered, respected, not only listened to but heard.

“We all hurt exactly the same which is why politicians and all of us should not differentiate. Time to show consideration and treat each family as the unique individuals which they are, don’t re-traumatise them time and time again whether through naming of parks, appointments or hypocritical statements through any form of media.

“Not only do difficult conversations have to be had but a lot of difficult listening.

“The Belfast Agreement/Good Friday Agreement is 15 years old in February, still very young, and it is important in my view to take baby steps with sensitive issues; tiny, tickable, attainable steps is the way to go.”

The mother-of-five said that Northern Ireland “has progressed so far and I hope we can continue in 2013 to celebrate its achievements and hope which we all have”.

She added: “When people speak to me about Northern Ireland I always tell them that the people of Northern Ireland are among the best in the world, they are kind, welcoming and have a wonderful sense of humour.

“Unfortunately some find it difficult sometimes to show this to each other, which is a shame because Northern Ireland is a beautiful place with so much to offer, a place which we all love, that we have in common.”