Belfast Telegraph

Tug-of-war still goes on for 'victims'

By Brian Rowan

Nothing about the past is ever simple, especially when it comes to defining a victim. This is still a battleground.

And, in that fight, those severely disabled during the conflict years are left waiting for the political arguments over a pension to be settled.

It is about who should get one and about who is a victim and who is not.

And, for some, it is about creating clear space and difference between "combatants" and "non-combatants", "terrorists" and "innocent victims".

That tug-of-war continues.

So, people wait, people in wheelchairs, people who have lost limbs and people who desperately need help.

These decisions should not be for politicians.

And, if they were left to those who most need the help, then answers and actions may well come more quickly.

Those who have been hurt the most have given the most to the developing peace and, now, they should be given what they need.

Jude Whyte, whose mother and a young police officer were killed by a bomb in 1984, argues it is time for politicians to "put their high moral principles aside for a few seconds".

A year before his mother was killed, a bomber was injured at the back door of the Whyte family home when the device he had exploded prematurely.

"If I was a legislator, I would be giving him a pension," Mr Whyte, a member of the Victims Forum, said.

And he says his thinking is this: "I'm part of the human race.

"Perhaps politicians can get over their indignation and pain like me."

Not everyone thinks and forgives like Mr Whyte.

But, somehow, a way has to be found to give the help that is needed to all who need it.

And that is the challenge.

Can a process that found its way to ceasefires, negotiations, political agreements, arms decommissioning, demilitarisation and support for policing take the next steps?

Those steps have to be found and taken, to assist those who need everyday help, because of what happened to them in the conflict years.

  • Brian Rowan is a writer and commentator on security issues

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