Belfast Telegraph

Voices of those injured by bombs must be heard too

A province-wide petition aims to raise awareness of survivors of the Troubles as well as victims. Brian Rowan reports

The recent news event and the research project it was announcing were reminders that our bloody past is not just about those who died. It is about so much more.

It is about those who were caught in the bombs and bullets of a violent conflict and who suffered life threatening, disfiguring or other severe injuries.

Alan McBride, of the Human Rights Commission, says they are "a constant reminder of what happened - people injured through no fault of their own".

At that news event last month, some of them waited to tell their stories; they turned up just to be heard.

"These are people who wake up with twisted bodies, their minds not right, missing limbs," said McBride, who works with the Wave Trauma Centre.

And in the New Year he will travel with them to a number of town centres across the province.

They want to get 10,000 signatures on a petition to present to the Secretary of State, the Justice Minister and the First and deputy First Ministers.

The petition and the findings of the research project will be brought together. That research aims to do a number of things.

It will report on numbers and the levels of injury sustained, log personal experiences, examine the physical, emotional and psychological effects of injury, explore how injured people and their families coped and look at what support services were available.

"The research should inform what recognition people are looking for," added McBride. "It is not just about money - it's about acknowledgement. It's part of the wider picture of dealing with the past. These are people who haven't worked since they were injured, who haven't built up pension contributions. Some of them are living in poverty."

Many of us can remember the headlines of the past; those days that never leave the mind due to the numbers killed - Omagh, Enniskillen, Loughinisland, Greysteel, Bloody Sunday, Bloody Friday.

But there were many other bloody days that are forgotten because only one person died, or because someone was hurt.

The injured in the room at that recent news event - those who will be part of this latest research project and who will be out on the streets in the New Year gathering signatures - can't and won't forget.

Every minute of every day, they live with the scars and the reminders. For them, there is no such thing as drawing a line and moving on.

We are not the only conflict zone dealing with the question of victims. Former Methodist president and witness to IRA decommissioning Harold Good will soon travel to the Basque country for a conference that will focus on this issue.

People want to hear our experience, even though that story is incomplete - bogged down in the continuing arguments over the very definition of 'victim'.

The research project has only limited funding and is being carried out by a team from the University of Surrey. It is one more piece in a complex jigsaw - one more piece of work to do with the past.

But the big question is still about the political will to deal with this; to design a process that brings all the strands together and to stop hiding behind the excuse that there is no consensus on a way forward.

There won't ever be a process if we wait for everyone to agree. And in that vacuum people in wheelchairs are going out onto the streets to get signatures for a petition they hope will change things.

"They are just facing a bleak old age," said Alan McBride. "And I just think society owes them something."

I have seen some of those who were injured in bomb explosions that happened decades ago. They are physically and mentally hurt - and they demand and deserve our help and attention.

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