Belfast Telegraph

Cleric’s call for Troubles day of reflection gets cold shoulder from victims groups

By Suzanne Breen

Victims are to meet former Methodist president the Rev Harold Good to voice their objections to his proposal to hold a day of acknowledgement to reflect on the Troubles.

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United expressed "serious concerns" that the event would not make adequate distinction between "innocent" victims and those who had engaged in violence.

Willie Frazer of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives said he feared that it was an attempt to engage in "a lovey-dovey exercise to sweep what really happened under the carpet".

Mr Good last night told the Belfast Telegraph that his proposal would involve everyone - including former paramilitaries, security force members and victims - joining in "a process or day of acknowledgement".

He said: "We have a very complex story.

"We will never reconcile the unionist/loyalist narrative with the nationalist/republican one.

"But, rather than trying to do that, let us attempt to reconcile with each other as human beings."

Mr Good had told BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence that everyone - including the Churches - should reflect on their acts of "commission and omission" during the Troubles.

He said: "We were silent when we should have spoken.

"There was injustice, there was discrimination, there was sectarianism from both sides.

"Where there was injustice, where there was sectarianism, we were silent.

"Together, across our community, we might come together, each of us and all of us, from all sectors, including the Churches, and acknowledge our part in the hurt, the grief and the pain of the past 48-plus years."

Mr Donaldson said that many victims were upset at the former Methodist president's suggestion.

"There has been a communal victimhood narrative that takes away individual responsibility from those who used violence," he said.

"We are asking Harold Good to acknowledge that there was never justification for the use of terrorism or criminal violence in the pursuit or defence of a political objective."

Mr Donaldson said that victims he represented felt the approach being taken was to "skip the process of remorse, repentance and restitution and just end up at the point of reconciliation".

He said he rejected the suggestion that "everyone in Northern Ireland is responsible for the mess" of the past as it ignored the role of individual responsibility.

"Most people did not go out and avenge the wrong done to them, they did not bring hurt to their neighbour's door," he said.

"People make choices."

Mr Frazer said: "The victims for whom I speak want nothing to do with Harold Good's day of acknowledgement.

"They see it as a lovey-dovey exercise to sweep what really happened under the carpet.

"Victims do not need a special day of reflection.

"For them, every day is a day of reflection."

Mr Frazer said he would be asking Mr Good "to use his time to get the IRA to say what they did was totally unjustified".

He added: "The IRA has never said that.

"All they repeat is that things shouldn't have happened or it was unfortunate that they took place - and that isn't good enough."

The former Methodist leader had said he would meet victims who opposed his suggestion.

Mr Donaldson said he had already written to him to arrange a meeting, and Mr Frazer said he was planning to do so.

Mr Good said: "I am very sensitive to the hurt and feelings of all victims.

"I regret that they have misunderstood what I was saying and the spirit in which I was saying it.

"I would welcome the opportunity to meet them as part of a pastoral conversation."

Belfast Telegraph

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