Belfast Telegraph

Fury of victims' families at paramilitary probe

The authors didn't even talk to us, say relatives of victims murdered by the IRA during peacetime

By Suzanne Breen

The families of people murdered by paramilitaries during the peace process have denounced the authors of a report into ongoing violence for failing to contact them.

The Belfast Telegraph has been told that the panel behind the report did not hold talks with the families of Kevin McGuigan, Paul Quinn or Robert McCartney, who were killed by the IRA years after its ceasefire.

Mr McCartney's sister Catherine said last night: "I am very disappointed that they didn't have the courtesy to ask us about our experience and opinion of ongoing paramilitary violence.

"Not to speak to the family of Kevin McGuigan is just unforgivable.

"Robert was murdered 11 years ago, but Kevin was killed only 10 months ago. The panel was set up as a result of his murder."

Sources said that Dolores McGuigan, whose husband Kevin was shot dead outside the family's home in the Short Strand area of east Belfast last August, had not been interviewed by the reporting body.

The Fresh Start agreement panel's report on the disbandment of paramilitary terrorist groupings was published on Tuesday.

It was drawn up by former Alliance Party leader Lord Alderdice, former Women's Coalition leader Monica McWilliams and solicitor John McBurney.

The panel indicated it had met with a range of individuals and organisations, including community and business representatives, academics, church leaders, government departments, the Probation Board, the Equality Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Children's and Victims' Commissioners.

However, Ms McCartney said: "In my view, the authors have concentrated largely on talking to professional peace processors.

"The raw, unadulterated voices of those at the coalface in communities is missing. They should be speaking to victims themselves - those who have personally borne the brunt of paramilitary brutality, not those anointed as their representatives.

"I see the whole exercise as the middle-classes talking to themselves, with a few working-class voices from the community sector who benefit from the peace dividend thrown in."

She described the 38-page report as "mainly meaningless waffle which could have been reduced to half a page had the jargon been omitted".

Ms McCartney also predicted it wouldn't make "an iota of difference" on the ground.

Breege Quinn, from south Armagh, whose son Paul was beaten to death by the IRA in a barn in Oram, Co Monaghan, in 2007 also attacked the report.

"I find it very hurtful that this panel didn't see fit to meet myself or my husband Stephen," she said.

"Victims are once again at the bottom of the pile - we don't matter.

"The report is nonsense anyway - it links ongoing paramilitary violence to poverty. Well, the people who ordered and carried out my son's murder have plenty of money and live in big houses.

"They didn't beat Paul to death because they were poor and marginalised - they did it to exercise power and control over the community."

The bereaved mother added that she was sickened that Sinn Fein had welcomed the report as "thorough and wide-ranging".

She also accused the republican party of "speaking out of both sides of their mouth again" and added: "Sinn Fein could secure justice for us in the morning if they wished.

"Instead, the party is protecting those who used iron bars and nail-studded cudgels to beat the life out of my son."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph