Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland politicians sweeping issues under the carpet: Wife of IRA bombing victim claims

By Michael McHugh

Politicians have swept the victims' issue under the carpet, a teacher whose husband was badly injured in an IRA bombing said.

Jan Crawford's partner Gary, 50, lost his trade as a joiner when his left side was "shattered" by the attack on a minibus at Teebane crossroads in Co Tyrone in 1992.

Twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement, Mrs Crawford, 52, said they had been given the runaround by politicians unable to agree on measures to address Northern Ireland's toxic past.

She said: "It is very miserable, there is not much humanity in any of that, I could not do that to someone but seemingly they can live with that and they get paid for doing nothing.

"I don't know how they live with their consciences, they need to dig deeper into themselves."

Some measure of agreement on dealing with the past was found during recent sets of political negotiations. However, the deal foundered on calls for an Irish language act.

Eight died and six were injured at Teebane. The firm was targeted because it carried out work for the security forces.

Mrs Crawford voted against the Good Friday Agreement because she felt it was built on "sinking sand" but, in retrospect, believes there was no alternative.

"I just find that too many politicians are working from their own agenda and are refusing to see the bigger picture, and I also feel they have put the victims on the back burner, they want us to go away - it is almost like sweeping all the problems under the carpet."

Northern Ireland's Victims' Commissioner Judith Thompson has said the Agreement is a huge piece of "unfinished business".

She understood Mrs Crawford's frustration at the lack of progress. Twenty-six years after her husband Gary was severely injured and left unable to work for the rest of his life, they are still waiting for a pension that is blocked by political disagreement.

While thousands of lives were saved by the 1998 accord, around 1,700 deaths have not been properly dealt with by the justice system, she said.

Mechanisms to reinvestigate unresolved Troubles deaths, information recovery and hold inquests has not been delivered because Stormont power-sharing has stalled.

There have been 150 Troubles-related deaths since the Agreement was signed.

Northern Ireland has the highest level of post-traumatic stress disorder in Europe following the Troubles.

Some provision had been made for healthcare, 55 voluntary and community groups exist to support those harmed and £13 million of public funds a year is devoted to it.

Ms Thompson said the legacy of the past: "Has been kicked down the road ever since the Good Friday Agreement and we have learned that it is not a can they are kicking, it is a snowball and the further you kick it down the road the bigger and more corrosive it gets."

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable George Hamilton has said they cannot police the past and the present, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has called for more money for Troubles inquests and prosecutors have raised workload concerns.

Ms Thompson said the justice system was losing goodwill because of outstanding reforms.

The Agreement was still: "Unfinished business for our peace process, unfinished business not just for victims and survivors but for all of us."

Around 1,700 deaths have not been properly dealt with by the justice system.

Ms Thompson said those included bereaved families from across all of our community.

"We have all those issues which are desperately painful and difficult, they cause ongoing grief and anger."

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