Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Too many Troubles' victims are out of agencies’ reach

Most victims of the Troubles have not been reached by agencies and groups that can offer help and counselling and are not engaged in the process of recovery from the loss of a loved one, one of the province’s Victims’ Commissioners has said.

Brendan McAllister said that a whole swathe of victims and their relatives remain out of reach of the various groups established to help relatives cope with bereavement.

Speaking after the commission revealed the identities of 36 people who will form the first Victims Forum, to consult with victims of terrorism and advise how to address the needs of victims, he said that an enormous outreach exercise was still required to engage many more victims of the conflict.

“The Victims Commission is constantly finding individuals presenting problems who seem unaware of the range of agencies that can help. Many agencies and groups do valuable work for victims but a major challenge lies ahead to widen the circle of participation if we are to use the opportunities that are there for this generation,” he said.

Despite major efforts to attract the widest possible spectrum from across the community the commission was unable to persuade a carer or someone under 30 to serve on the interim Forum for Victims.

One commission source said that despite strenuous efforts to

appoint someone who devoted most of their time to care for a loved one severely injured and disabled during the thirty-plus years of violent conflict they just couldn’t find a candidate.

“We thought we had one carer ready to come on board the Forum but about a fortnight after agreeing they phoned up and said they just didn’t want to do it. It was a similar story trying to attract a younger person onto the Forum.

“We realised that the age profile of those appointed didn’t accommodate the views of a younger person who hadn’t lived the majority of their lives through the Troubles period but despite contacting a number of groups we couldn’t persuade someone under 30 to come on board”, a source said.

Michael Culbert, a republican ex-prisoner, and the well-known unionist victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer have both agreed to serve on the interim body.

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