A terror victim has told a professor not to tell her to ‘shut up’ after he labelled an interview with her as “conflict journalism at its worst”.
In Friday’s News Letter Professor John D Brewer criticised a report in this paper for featuring Ann Travers’ reaction to Martin McGuinness’ appearance at the annual Commission for Victims and Survivors conference in Belfast this week.
The ex-IRA commander’s organisation made many victims, she said, and he was pressing for the UK to release intelligence files when he refused to tell the Saville inquiry about his own past.
She also took issue with the legal definition of a victim being absent from the conference agenda.
The News Letter headline for the story “Victim slams ex-IRA chief” prompted the professor of Post Conflict Studies at QUB to tweet that it was “conflict journalism at its worst”.
He later said: “No one person represents victims, so who journalists quote as somehow speaking on behalf of victims is telling about the tone of the story and whether or not it uses that person’s narrative to help us learn to live together – or keep us stuck in the past.
“Journalists can construct all kinds of stories depending on who it is they rely on as their source.”
Ms Travers – whose sister was killed by the IRA – said: “Nobody claims, and certainly not I, Professor Brewer, that I represent ‘all’ victims.”
There are thousands of such unique people “but we share the common ground of violent loss”.
“If a journalist, whom I respect, phones me and asks for my thoughts I will give them. My point of view and voice is as valid as the next person’s.
“I wonder would you say similar if it was the Finucane family criticising the Prime Minister? Hypocrisy. Don’t tell victims to shut up!”
Aileen Quinton, whose mother was killed in the 1987 Enniskillen bomb, was also angered by the comments.
“Should a victim of child abuse have to get a consensus amongst other victims before speaking out?” she asked.
“The onus has been put on victims to change their needs and trauma triggers to suit the commission. Silencing victims is a classic ploy to revictimise people.
“Just because another victim may have a different view to Ann, that doesn’t mean she has not been impacted or has any less right to speak out.”
The Victims’ Commissioner has offered no comment this week.