You can all picture the scene. Nigel Dodds at the door of 10 Downing Street the morning after the general election with the DUP’s hopping list in his pocket.
You can all picture the scene. Nigel Dodds standing at the front door of 10 Downing Street the morning after the general election with the DUP’s 100 item shopping list in his pocket, gripping tightly to his shopping trolley, ready for the klaxon to sound for the start of Westminster’s version of the ‘Supermarket Sweep’.
If the DUP do have a say in the formation of the next government they will demand many things. Some they may get; some they may not. One item that I would suggest that they leave high up on the shelf is their demand that the definition of a victim be changed.
The demand to change the definition has been ongoing since it was first defined in Westminster in 2006. The current definition is very inclusive. It encompasses people who were bereaved; injured, both physically and psychologically; and the carers of the injured. This definition uses human suffering as its qualifying criteria for victimhood status.
With this status in place many victims and survivors can access services and support through victims groups and the Victims and Survivors Service of Northern Ireland. Without it, access will be denied.
The change proposed by the DUP and certain victims groups would exclude those people labelled as terrorists and perpetrators. Only the ‘ideal’ victims would be deserving of victim status. Those who are morally pure; those without guilt or blame for their victimisation. I could be classed one of these ‘ideal’ victims but I fear this change.
In 1994 I was shot and paralysed at the age of 21 when our home was taken over by UFF as they waited to shoot our neighbours.
Those excluded from the proposed new definition would no longer be legally recognised as victims. These people, and their surviving family members, would not deserve support. In fact, some would say that, they deserved what happened to them because of their life choices.
As it stands Nigel Dodds could today be canvassing on the Shankill Road and meet two young men who, as innocent children, lost their fathers to violence. These young men could be in receipt of counselling services to help them cope with their loss and trauma. If the DUP get their way and redefine victimhood one could lose this support because his daddy joined the UFF while the other joined the RUC.
Some people would be happy with this scenario. They cannot abide any equivalence between the memory of their ‘innocent’ loved ones and other more ‘complex’ victims. But nobody is seriously asking for moral equivalence between victims. Every victim’s experience is individual to them. It is not felt equally across the board. The equivalence is in the harm and the suffering. There were many reasons for their victimisation but the end result was the same: death and injury.
The conflict here was messy. There was no black and white. Therefore we should take the black and white thinking out of our attempts to deal with the past and look to the future. A future that accepts complexity and nuance. To see it from the eyes of the other side. Only then can we stop the cycle of victimisation. To take away somebody’s victimhood just to please another will only continue the bitterness, resentment, isolation, and marginalisation that has been at the heart of our society for generations.
Paul Gallagher, Belfast