Victims urged to use support team
Unheard victims of the Northern Ireland conflict are to be encouraged to come forward after a new support service was established in Co Armagh.
Unionists have not adequately availed of lobby groups like those engaging with the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) and other justice processes but that could be about to change, said UUP MLA Danny Kennedy.
Sufferers from across the community wanting to participate in truth recovery exercises will be able to contact the EU-funded Pathways to Justice Project, to be launched at Stormont.
Omagh bomb victim Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden aged 21 died in the 1998 Real IRA blast, said: "I am hoping this new organisation will give voice to the victims, the people who in the past have not had an opportunity to stand up and be counted."
Working with the HET will be a key part of the organisation's remit after some victims felt they had been overtaken by other lobby groups representing those affected by state or loyalist violence.
Mr Gallagher added: "The people that supported paramilitaries and former paramilitaries are people who are well-organised. They were well-organised in political parties, in the paramilitary organisations themselves. They are hitting the ground running and most of the other people are not coming with any organisation whatsoever."
He added: "There has never been a clear separation between the victim and the victimiser, the Government have tended to lump everyone together and let reconciliation take its course and everyone move forward. I don't think in the real world that would be accepted."
The HET has investigated a range of cases of loyalist, republican and state killings. The specialist police unit is probing more than 3,000 murders from the 30-year conflict. One high profile case file involved allegations of collusion between a loyalist murder gang and the police in north Belfast. Detectives from the unit have also been investigating the Enniskillen bombing. Eleven people were killed in the IRA attack in County Fermanagh, on November 8 1987.
Eric Brown, chairman of the Justice for Innocent Victims of Terrorism Ltd, said the organisation's pathways project would also acknowledge the hurt and trauma caused by troubles-related violence through creative arts, workshops and counselling.
He said: "Today's event is the culmination of almost four years determined effort by those working on behalf of a constituency of victims/survivors who have not previously felt able to access advocacy-based services."