Victims relatives ‘heartened’ by Brokenshire meeting

Pictured here is James Brokenshire (centre), plus Eric Brown, SEFF chairman (left), and Ken Funston, also of SEFF
Pictured here is James Brokenshire (centre), plus Eric Brown, SEFF chairman (left), and Ken Funston, also of SEFF

A group representing a number of Troubles victims’ relatives has hailed a meeting with the newly-appointed Secretary of State as “positive”.

James Brokenshire, Tory MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, met with members of the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) at its offices in Lisnaskea.

Mr Brokenshire replaced Theresa Villiers in the post this summer, and SEFF said that his visit to Fermanagh on Tuesday afternoon made him the first Secretary of State to meet the group “in their own backyard”.

SEFF has around 920 members, drawn from an estimated 600 families.

It is also part of the wider umbrella organisation Innocent Victims United, which is comprised of 23 organisations representing a cumulative total of about 11,500 people.

After the meeting, SEFF’s director of services Kenny Donaldson said that the organisation’s members had been “heartened” by Mr Brokenshire’s approach.

Mr Donaldson said: “The group pressed the Secretary of State on a number of issues which are of concern to them and moreover borderland victims and survivors”.

These included the proposed new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU), which is supposed to investigate old Troubles cases, as well as the ramifications which the UK’s exit from the EU may have on European funding for post-Troubles peace projects.

Other issues touched on were the idea of restoring Army widows’ pensions for those who have re-married, and what SEFF said were “the Republic of Ireland state’s failures around border security and extradition”.

Mr Donaldson said: “We had a positive yet robust exchange with the Secretary of State...

“[He] acknowledged there has been an imbalance in how ‘legacy’ issues have been examined to date.

“He agreed with us that innocent victims and survivors of terrorism must be facilitated in their quest to obtain justice, truth and accountability around events which have had such a devastating impact upon their lives.”

The previous night, Willie Frazer from the south Armagh group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives, had also hailed their own meeting that day with Mr Brokenshire.

Mr Frazer had said: “We welcomed today’s opportunity to meet with the Secretary of State and discuss issues of mutual concern, we congratulated Mr Brokenshire on his appointment and advised him that we look forward to working with him moving forward on issues of mutual agreement.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy issued a statement claiming that Mr Brokenshire had been due to attend a meeting in Newry, but had called it off “when he was informed that local community groups were holding a protest” about the UK’s pending exit from the EU.

A Northern Ireland Office spokeswoman said they would not comment on the Secretary of State’s programme, or his personal security.