Belfast Telegraph

Victims hammer home concerns to five main parties

By Noel McAdam

Victims of the Troubles have bluntly told Stormont politicians at face-to-face meetings that they will hold them to account.

As crucial talks to restore the Executive continue, the Victims and Survivors Forum met the five main parties separately and criticised the long delay in dealing with their issues.

Following the meetings, the 23-strong forum, which includes victims of republican and loyalist paramilitaries as well as security force members, insisted it was speaking with one voice.

It told DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, Ulster Unionist and Alliance politicians: "We share a common purpose.

"The impact of violence is shared by all victims and survivors and that impact should never be endured by another generation."

Forum member Shirley McMichael, whose murdered husband was UDA leader John McMichael, said: "At times you feel like the victims and victims' issues are being left at the bottom of the heap.

"But as someone who goes back to the pilot forum (set up in 2009) I hope that things will change. Certainly, the forum is very united."

Afterwards other individual members said their encounters with the parties had been "incredibly useful" and they now needed to see agreement and action.

There was support for planned legislation on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles, which is being put out for public consultation.

Hazel Deeney, from Londonderry, had her husband Trevor shot dead by the INLA in the driveway of their home. He was buried on the day the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

Mrs Deeney (51), who was left to raise four children aged between 10 and 14, said: "We as a group are going to hold the politicians to account, and we have told them that.

"We are going to keep pressing them until we get the answers we need. There is a lot of respect among all the members of the forum despite the many different points of view and we are going to be very much the drivers in all of this."

Sarah McGrillen (32), who was just three years old when her RUC officer father Michael Malone was shot and killed by the IRA in the Liverpool Bar in 1987, said: "It has been incredibly useful.

"A robust consultation is essential and unavoidable, otherwise we will have to come back to revise and revisit the proposals in the future. These issues are complex and we need to get the maximum buy-in."

Mrs Deeney and Ms McGrillen said differences remained between the parties on the vexed definition of a victim and proposals for a pension for severely injured victims.

"But we are positive we will have ongoing engagement with the parties. There are a lot of passionate people involved in the forum," Ms McGrillen added.

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