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Minister hits out at treatment of Troubles' victims during service

By Rebecca Black

Published 03/10/2016

From left, South East Fermanagh Foundation’s director of Services Kenny Donaldson, Victims & Survivors Service Board member Bertha McDougall, VSS CEO Margaret Bateson and SEFF’s chairman Eric Brown
From left, South East Fermanagh Foundation’s director of Services Kenny Donaldson, Victims & Survivors Service Board member Bertha McDougall, VSS CEO Margaret Bateson and SEFF’s chairman Eric Brown

Innocent victims are being made to feel like they are a problem, a special service of remembrance has heard.

More than 300 people - including many victims of terrorism - attended The South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF)'s annual service of remembrance yesterday.

It followed the theme of Carrying Forward the Torch of Remembrance, and included participation from Kyle Black, the son of David Black, a prison officer who was murdered by dissident republicans in 2012.

The Rev Alan Irwin told those who were gathered at Colaghty Church of Ireland in Lack that victims have been promised much during the peace process, but through "patronising, condescending words" have been made to feel like the problem. The minister - whose own father and uncle were murdered by terrorists - also blasted what he termed the "rewriting of history".

"Pre-1998 terrorism is receiving a makeover; don't think it is a 60 minute makeover though, as terrorists and terrorism are lauded, their horrendous actions made to appear justified," he told the congregation.

"A morally corrupt definition that equates the innocent victim with the perpetrator, the terrorist, the murderer, puts extreme pressure on any attempts to administer true justice."

Another feature of the service was SEFF's new youth choir, which comprises young people whose loved ones were murdered through terrorism.

SEFF's director of Services Kenny Donaldson they were overwhelmed by the support they received for the service, and said people "came along in their droves to show solidarity with the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism".

"Within the service content were a number of special elements including the dedication of six new memorial quilt patches to Constable Stephen Carroll, Constable Ronan Kerr, Constable David Black, Mary Travers, William Heenan and Pte John Eaglesham," he said.

"We also focused on three local murders - Jillian Johnston, Ronald Funston and Jim Oldman - which were committed within the parish and adjacent area and which had such a profound effect upon the families concerned and indeed the wider community.

"Family representatives of these three local people contributed testimony, a Bible reading and prayers."

Mr Donaldson said the service brought together people from a "wide cross section of the community" in Northern Ireland.

"There were also people present from the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland," he said.

"The commonality all present shared their opposition to terrorism and criminal violence being used, present or past, in the pursuance of or defence of a political objective.

"We extend a warm thanks to all those involved in making yesterday's service so special and in particular Rev Alan Irwin and his parish vestry, who himself is an innocent victim/survivor of terrorism through having had his own father Thomas and uncle Frederick murdered.

"Rev Alan's message was a message of resilience, of the need to continue the pursuit of justice, truth and accountability - and it was delivered in a wonderful spirit of Christian hope."

Belfast Telegraph

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