Belfast Telegraph

Shock as one in three Troubles victims admits to a suicide bid

By Adrian Rutherford

A third of people affected by the Troubles have tried to take their own lives, a survey by a victims’ group has indicated.

The shocking statistic emerged from the research by the Docklands Victims’ Association (DVA). It has raised concerns over a “vast” number of suicides linked to Northern Ireland’s violent part.

The group asked questions to 2,000 people from Northern Ireland, the Republic and Great Britain who had been affected by Troubles violence.

Some 32% had attempted suicide, and in some cases people had taken their own lives, its president, Jonathan Ganesh, said.

Many still need medication for suicidal thoughts linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and various other mental health issues, he added.

A report by the DVA, which was set up after the 1996 Docklands bombing, calls for better support, funding and care.

It states: “The DVA is very concerned to learn that a vast number who suffered direct emotional stress as a consequence of the Troubles have taken their own lives many years after the initial incident.”

The report is due to be presented to officials from the Northern Ireland Office in London tomorrow. Copies have also been sent to Prime Minister Theresa May and the Irish government.

Mr Ganesh, who was badly injured in the Docklands bomb, said: “I am very concerned with the findings of our consultations. I’m appalled that victims have taken their own lives. It breaks my heart.”

Joe Holbeach, from Lurgan, was seriously injured in the Remembrance Sunday explosion at Enniskillen in November 1987, in which 12 people died.

He was left traumatised and suffering from depression, and is critical of the lack of government support. He said: “I attempted suicide because I’m haunted by what I saw and still feel. The government has abandoned me and all the other victims.”

He has backed the DVA’s campaign for better support.

The DVA was founded after the Docklands bombing in February 1996. The explosion close to Canary Wharf marked the end of the IRA’s 17-month ceasefire. Two men, Imam Bashir and John Jeffries, were killed, and many more were injured, some permanently.

Earlier this year the government launched a public consultation process on the legacy of the Troubles. In response, the DVA spoke to around 2,000 victims from Northern Ireland, the Republic and Great Britain.

Its preliminary report details a number of concerns over victims’ issues, including suicide and attempted suicide.

It states: “As a consequence of this consultation concerning the Troubles, the DVA has been very distressed to learn that many victims have taken their own lives through suicides.

“The DVA has been astonished to discover that a vast number of victims have attempted suicide or committed suicide many years after the initial terrorist incident due to debilitating mental health conditions such as PTSD or other mental health conditions.

“The reluctance of UK governments, including government-funded support groups, to address these increasing mental health conditions has contributed to the stigma associated with suicide. Therefore, this must be addressed and a specialist unit staffed by accredited mental health workers must be established.”

Mr Ganesh said: “The DVA can confirm approximately 2,000 people were surveyed from across Republic of Ireland, mainland GB and Northern Ireland whose lives have been impacted by the Troubles. It emerged that 32% had seriously attempted to take their own lives, who are presently being medicated for suicidal thoughts linked to PTSD and other mental health conditions.”

The DVA report calls for a pension for all seriously injured victims, including people from the Republic and Great Britain, and those with severe mental health conditions.

It also criticises the lack of movement on securing compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terrorism.

The Enniskillen bombing was among a series of attacks carried out using explosives supplied by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

The DVA has been involved in a long-running campaign to press the UK government to follow the lead of other countries, including the US, and secure compensation from Libya.

Mr Holbeach added: “If UK and Irish victims had US passports we would have been compensated by Gaddafi.

“These US victims managed to get better healthcare.

“I had to beg Victims Support Service for a cooker.”

The daughter of a police officer killed in the 1983 Harrods bombing also criticised the lack of government support.

Susanne Dodd’s father Stephen, an inspector with the Metropolitan Police, was among six people killed. She said she was “disgusted” at the lack of help for people affected by the Troubles.

“My poor dad and all the victims are worthless because the US government held Gaddafi and IRA to account.

“What kind of government implements policies that abandon its victims? I’m not surprised victims have committed suicide in desperation.”

In a statement, a UK government spokesperson said it “wants to hear the views of all people affected by the Troubles, including many from outside Northern Ireland whose lives have been affected”. 

“NIO officials will be meeting representatives of DVA this week and we are grateful to receive their views, which will be considered carefully,” they added.

If you, or anyone close to you, is affected by issues in this article, contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000

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