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IRA victims unite to tell MLAs impact terror has had on lives

By Rebecca Black

Published 15/03/2016

Austin Stack addressing MLAs at Stormont yesterday
Austin Stack addressing MLAs at Stormont yesterday
Aileen Quinton addressing MLAs at Stormont yesterday
Neil Tattersall addressing MLAs at Stormont yesterday

IRA victims from Northern Ireland, the Republic and England have united to give powerful testimony about how the loss of their loved ones has impacted their lives.

Aileen Quinton, whose mother was killed in the Enniskillen bomb; Austin Stack, whose father died after being shot, and Neil Tattersall, who was seriously injured in a Provo bomb in Manchester were speaking at Stormont to mark the European Day for Victims of Terrorism.

The Senate chamber was packed to capacity as other victims and MLAs took part in the event, which included a minute's silence for all those killed by terrorists.

Mr Stack spoke about his long fight to force the IRA to admit it killed his father.

Brian Stack was the Chief Prison Officer at Portlaoise when he was shot and fatally wounded in March 1983.

Even the Garda told the Stack family that the IRA was not responsible. However, in 2013 he took the brave decision to meet face to face with the IRA and said at that meeting he was told it had killed his father, but the attack had not been officially sanctioned.

"Getting the IRA to admit responsibility was a major achievement for us," he said.

"We are now actively seeking answers from the Garda in relation to their non-investigation in 1983 and are seeking accountability on that front."

English man Mr Tattersall gave heartfelt testimony about the struggles he has faced since he was almost killed by the blast in Manchester on December 3, 1992.

He was just 23 at the time and has since struggled to recover from his serious physical and psychological injuries, revealing he had been failed by statutory agencies in England.

Mr Tattersall ended up homeless and sleeping under a bridge at Manchester Airport before he finally found help and support from victims' group, the South East Fermanagh Foundation.

"In Great Britain it is like a stigma when you mention terrorism, bombs, post-traumatic stress disorder and all associated with it," he said.

"Rather than treat me for PTSD, I was told that I had fibromyalgia and was treated for that for a long time. My back is in permanent spasm and I find it so very hard to get health professionals to listen to me.

"In recent months life has got better. Yes, there are difficult days, but the big picture is better - I now have a job and have properly woken up for the first time in 20 years. However, I am conscious that today I'm among very many whose lives have been crushed by the loss of close loved ones. I have been lucky, I am alive."

The event was organised by TUV leader Jim Allister and co-sponsored by SDLP MLA Alban Maginness and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt. Mr Allister said it was a privilege to host the event.

"Key to the value of the European Day is that it is unequivocally for innocent victims, not victim-makers and, therefore, unlike the perverse definition of 'victim' in Northern Ireland, it admits of no equivalence between perpetrators and their victims," he said.

"The three innocent victims from whom we heard today again delivered very challenging accounts which stripped away the glamorising of terror which those who would rewrite our history espouse. The raw horror of terrorism and its lasting consequences was laid bare.

"I greatly welcome the courage and honesty of those who spoke, as well as the tenacity with which they have pursued truth and justice, as epitomised by the contribution of Austin Stack, who has refused to accept the lying and evasion of IRA/Sinn Fein."

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