Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Time's running out to recognise victims

The definition of victim is one of the stumbling blocks that has bedevilled attempts to deal with the legacy of the past. Many of the 3,637 people who died were self-evidently uninvolved - men, women and children caught up either accidentally or deliberately targeted in terrorist attacks - and therefore indisputably agreed victims.

But should those involved in republican or loyalist organisations who were killed by the security forces or by their own actions or by each other be similarly classified?

That is a question where it has been impossible to find political consensus.

And now it emerges that there is another sub-group which campaigners say should be added to the list of victims.

These are people who have died as a result of terrorist actions not directed at them but who have been so immediately affected by those incidents - perhaps the killing of a loved one or proximity to the incident - that they collapsed and died.

We carry several of those stories today.

In all, some 28 people have been identified as belonging to that group who have never been officially accepted as victims of the Troubles.

Yet it seems self-evident that they would not have died had they not been exposed to an extraordinary trauma.

It could be said that they are victims at one remove, but are victims nevertheless.

And, as this newspaper has repeatedly said, time is running out for so many of the victims of all classifications.

It is almost 50 years since the Troubles began and almost 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and, in spite of all the honeyed words, the formation of various groups, both official and unofficial, and the pleas of the bereaved and injured, no agreement on dealing with their plight has been reached.

It seemed that the Fresh Start accord between Sinn Fein and the DUP would pave the way finally for action, but since then the power-sharing administration has crashed and relationships between the two parties have plummeted.

All sides may say that they are willing to re-enter Stormont, yet there is no indication that such a move is imminent. There are many day-to-day issues awaiting the return of local politicians for action, but justice demands that the legacy of the past is a priority concern. And justice equally demands that this new category of victim be added to the list as deserving of recognition before it is too late.

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