10 September 2009 Edition
The Mary Nelis Column
The professional victims’ gravy train
THE professional victims’ gravy train was at Downing Street on Tuesday morning to ensure that Gordon Brown doesn’t do another U-turn on the promised compensation desert trek to Libya where they hope Colonel Gaddafi will cough up the necessary millions to secure their future in the hierarchy of victims they have created.
These are the people who have made a career out of being victims. They turn up at every meeting to state their case, which is about demonising and labelling those they believe are responsible and attacking anyone who do not share their particular viewpoint. Thus they talk of the IRA as the only protagonists of the conflict and demand their pound of flesh, which is not about truth or concern for suffering but more and more is being seen as the grubby money-making exercise it is.
They are indeed victims for they refuse to come to terms with the loss of those they loved or, in the wider sense, with the changes that have occurred through the loss of their political power and self-esteem. Their focus is on vengeance and money and they adamantly refuse to accept that many of those who died in the conflict were the victims of state murder.
By contrast, those bereaved by the actions of the British state and its legal and illegal murder machine are more focused on establishing the truth. They have mourned their loss and their concern is to uncover the circumstances that left them bereaved and why they were denied even the basic decency of an explanation. Out of fear many remained silent for years and it is only now that they are beginning to tell their story.
The hierarchy of victims mindset has flourished under the many initiatives set up by the British Government over the past years, stretching from the Bloomfield Report in 1998, which established that British Army personnel, RUC and UDR members and prison officers should be deemed to merit “special concern”. The republican and nationalist community were written out of Bloomfield, thus establishing the concept of ‘deserving and undeserving’ victims.
On the recommendations of Bloomfield, the British Government went on to appoint the Minister for the British Armed Forces in the North, Adam Ingram, as the ‘Victims Commissioner’, rubbing salt in the wounds of relatives of those murdered by the state.
Since then, the remit to address the needs of the bereaved, let alone establish the truth, has extended to four advisory panels, the Historic Enquiries Team, four Victims Commissioners (who have just appointed a Victims Forum), the Eames/Bradley consultation exercise, and the British/Libyan connection.
A veritable victims industry has grown up, mainly to placate unionism, but it has not resolved the sense of loss or the pain of many of the bereaved, some of whom have never been afforded an opportunity to ask questions around the death of those they loved, let alone seek compensation.
There is growing suspicion within the republican/nationalist community that the common agenda of all the British initiatives is to divert attention from the demands by Sinn Féin and human rights organisations for an independent truth recovery process that would allow all victims and survivors access to the truth on an equal basis.
The majority of the bereaved, the survivors of a conflict that was not of their making, and indeed that vast section of people who suffered the horrors of arrest, imprisonment, house searches, intimidation, and humiliation and who appear to be excluded from the category of victim, have no fear of a genuine truth recovery debate, for they want to make peace with all who share this island.
Can the same be said of the British Government?