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Legacy issues deadlock leaves victims feeling let down

By Noel McAdam and Erinn Kerr

Published 18/11/2015

Victims of the Troubles said they have been forgotten in the new Stormont deal.

After 10 weeks of talks, the parties have failed to break the deadlock over legacy issues.

There was anger and disappointment among victims' groups as it emerged new bodies envisaged in the Stormont House Agreement last December, including the Historical Inquiries Unit, are now in indefinite limbo.

Sinn Fein and the Government failed to reach an accommodation on the issue which has eluded a comprehensive resolution since the Eames/Bradley report almost six years ago. The sticking point was the clash between the needs of families for disclosure of how their loved ones died and the over-riding needs of national security.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the agreement deals with the issues which "have cast the greatest shadows over Stormont" but also conceded it did not include the 'legacy'.

"These are hugely difficult issues (but) we will keep working at this, we will find a way to resolve the needs of victims and survivors," she pledged.

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "Regrettably it did not prove possible to find an agreement at this stage."

But Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness went on the attack and accused the Government of "blocking" the rights of victims.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty's NI programme director said: "The latest failure by both governments to agree how to investigate past human rights violations is a further let-down for victims who've been failed repeatedly for decades."

Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by a Provisional IRA gunman in 1984, said Stormont politicians have "shoved the issues of the past into the back of the cupboard.

"Personally I think it is too late, the electorate and especially those victims who suffered through the Troubles have had enough.

"Victims are seen as being difficult but that's what being attacked by terrorists does to you.

"We can empathise so well with the victims of the terrorist attack in Paris because we understand, we experienced the same fear and heartbreak. "

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was a victim of the Omagh bomb, said he felt victims and their families were being "left behind".

He told the Belfast Telegraph that while he accepts the issue of the past is not an easy one to resolve, he believes it affects everyone in Northern Ireland and cannot be ignored.

He said: "Stormont politicians should now concentrate their energy on resolving the issue of the past."

Stephen Gault, whose father was killed in the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen, has said he was "disgusted" to hear that a deal had been done which didn't include anything for the families of victims of the Troubles.

He said: "The past has been forgotten about which is very disturbing.

"I feel let down, but I would be lying if I said I was surprised."

Cathy McIlveeny, whose sister Lorraine McCausland was killed by loyalist paramilitaries in 1987, said the victims of the Troubles deserved "truth and honesty" and said victims' families were "not going to go away".

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