Troubles victims urge more support
Injured victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles have urged Stormont's politicians not to forget their plight as they presented them with a petition bearing 10,000 signatures.
People maimed, disabled or psychologically traumatised in the conflict urged elected representatives to give them and their carers more support.
The demonstration outside Parliament Buildings in Belfast came as new academic research highlighted the problems faced by as many as 100,000 people who still live with the effects of the Troubles, compounded by a shortfall in state provision.
Paul Gallagher, who was disabled after being shot by loyalist paramilitaries in Belfast in 1994, addressed MLAs from each of the main parties before other victims handed them sackloads of petition signatures calling for action. Mr Gallagher, 39, said they felt they had been left behind in the peace process.
"The issues are varied but underlying them all is a sense of being forgotten," he said. "Of being told to forget what happened to you and move on. To not make a fuss for fear we damage the peace process. This is what many have done. We didn't make a fuss because we know, more than most, the cost of violent conflict.
"We live it every day. And not just every day, but all day every day. The injury is part of your life. Furthermore, our injuries are different to normal everyday injuries. The harms brought upon us came out of violent political conflict. These traumatic events are harder to reconcile than normal everyday injuries. The traumas inflicted upon us are ingrained into our minds, our identities have been transformed and our injuries become harder to heal."
A new Victims' Service is being established by the Stormont Executive to support those bereaved or injured in the Troubles. But campaigners insist more needs to be done.
Mr Gallagher said the injured had particular fears over planned changes to disability benefits. He added: "In essence we feel that there is a moral responsibility on our political leaders to recognise that they must do all that they can to put right some of the wrongs that we have had put upon us."
The event was attended by members of the Injured Support Group and was organised by the Wave trauma centre. The centre also commissioned the research study undertaken by Professor Marie Breen Smyth from the University of Surrey.
Despite medical advances, the academic found that both injured people and service providers reported that pain management continues to be an unrecognised and under-resourced service. She highlighted that initial compensation payments were based on income and not need, and life expectancy was underestimated.