Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Diane Dodds' letter to US politicians tells of murder bid ordeal

Diane Dodds has issued an emotional plea to US Congressmen to listen to victims of republican terrorism in a letter in which she tells of how the IRA targeted her husband as their son lay ill in hospital.

The DUP MEP wrote to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee, after US politicians were given a briefing on Northern Ireland's peace process last week.

However, no unionists were invited to give evidence, provoking criticism that the hearing was one-sided and biased.

The Congress members heard from Geraldine Finucane, the widow of murdered solicitor Pat, victim Eugene Devlin, Amnesty International, former police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan and US Diplomat Richard Haass.

Mrs Dodds offered to speak to the members of Congress herself as someone with experience of the Troubles. She and her MP husband Nigel survived an attack by IRA gunmen while they visited their sick child at the Royal Victoria Hospital in December 1996.

Mrs Dodds wrote that she was visiting her son Andrew, who had had Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, in the Intensive Care Unit.

"He was seriously ill. Despite this the PIRA saw fit to launch a murder attack in the hospital ward," wrote Mrs Dodds.

"My husband was the primary target. My husband and I had police protection when visiting the hospital. A bullet struck a protection officer, whilst another entered an unoccupied incubator.

"The terrorists fled and were never apprehended," she said.

But a spokesman for Congressman Chris Smith, who organised the hearing in Washington DC, sharply rejected her criticisms.

"The hearing was not a forum for political parties," he said.

The spokesman said that Dr Haass and Amnesty were neutral parties, while Baroness Nuala O'Loan, had a record of dealing with unsolved issues of the past.

He added: "Geraldine Finucane has never aligned with any political party and Eugene Devlin is an American citizen."

BACKGROUND

The US Government's foreign affairs sub committee hit the headlines on Wednesday when Diplomat Richard Haass warned that Northern Ireland could slip back into violence.

Unionists have reacted angrily to the warning which comes after Mr Haass chaired intense political talks at the end of last year aimed at breaking the current political deadlock.

Then the DUP criticised the committee for not including any victims of republican terrorists on its list of witnesses.

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