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Troubles victims 'being held to ransom' over welfare impasse

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 16/09/2015

Alan Brecknell
Alan Brecknell

Troubles victims and survivors have been left frustrated over politicians linking the welfare reform impasse with dealing with the past, a campaigner has claimed.

Alan Brecknell will today call for a guarantee of victims' rights to truth and justice in Government legalisation that deals with the legacy of decades of sectarian violence.

Mr Brecknell will be one of many family members who lost loved ones to attend the launch of a new report at a conference today.

Families and delegates will discuss how Stormont House Agreement (SHA) commitments to new justice mechanisms should be implemented.

Mr Brecknell, from Cullyhanna, south Armagh, was just seven years old when his father was killed in a loyalist paramilitary gun and bomb attack in 1975.

Trevor Brecknell had been celebrating after visiting his wife in hospital after she had given birth to a daughter when he was murdered.

As victims' campaigners, survivors and leading conflict academics gather for the Ulster University conference, Mr Brecknell spoke of his frustration with the current political impasse.

"To me, welfare reform and dealing with the past are two completely different issues," he said.

"The legacy issues from the Stormont House Agreement need to be moved forward as quickly as possible. It's not fair to victims and survivors that unless our politicians get agreement on welfare reform, then we are held to ransom.

"That's what it looks like to me."

Mr Brecknell added that after waiting for decades for proper processes to deal with the past, the Government must now deliver for victims by legislating in good faith.

"My family and thousands like us have waited too long to see truth and justice for what happened to our loved ones," he said.

"The UK Government must now act in good faith to legislate for all the mechanisms agreed at Stormont House - including the Historic Investigations Unit to investigate past atrocities, and an information recovery commission to let victims know what happened to their family members."

The four new institutions set out in the SHA are:

  • The independent Historical Investigations Unit to investigate outstanding Troubles-related deaths.
  • An Independent Commission on Information Retrieval to help victims and survivors to access privately-held information about their loved ones' deaths.
  • An Oral History Archive to create a central place to share experiences and narratives.
  • And an Implementation and Reconciliation Group to oversee themes and achieve information recovery.

Campaigners from Amnesty International and the Committee on the Administration of Justice will join experts from Queen's University and Ulster University as they outline what legislation could look like.

Amnesty Internationa's Patrick Corrigan said: "There is a lot of confusion among victims and survivors as to what the Historical Investigations Unit will do and what power it will have."

"This issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible," he added.

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