Belfast Telegraph

Troubles victims services 'in chaos' after officials quit

By Noel McAdam

Services to help victims of the Troubles and their families have been plunged into chaos following the shock resignation of two senior bosses, it has been claimed.

Victims and Survivors Service chief executive Anne Dorbie and chairman of the board Peter Gay have left just months after a revamp got under way following two independent reports.

Their departure comes just weeks after Kathryn Stone stood down from her position as head of the separate Victims Commission.

Victims' groups yesterday described the situation as "a mess" and "a car crash", and called on Stormont to act quickly.

Ms Stone had criticised the service – set up less than two years ago by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness – as "not fit for purpose".

Now the chair of the Stormont committee that monitors Mr Robinson's and Mr McGuinness' OFMDFM department has warned the "domino effect" of the triple resignation has led to chaos for the victims and their relatives.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, a former victims' commissioner, said: "Victims have had a legitimate expectation that the State would circle the wagons around them and look after their needs in terms of health, finance, education, social needs and so on.

"Instead, they have done quite the opposite.

"There isn't any short-term solution to this. But it seems that every time OFMDFM make one step forward, it is three steps back, and the sufferers yet again are the victims who are left with the provision of chaos.

"The loss of these three senior figures in short order is like a domino effect and the ripples are going to severely affect victims' groups on the ground who already lack confidence in the system."

One of the largest victims groups Wave called on OFMDFM to ensure no delay in implementing the reforms. And Willie Frazer of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives called for an inquiry.

"Here we are again, and again the only ones who are suffering from all of this are the victims and their families," he said.

Victims and Survivors Service insisted "work continues as normal", while OFMDFM claimed Mr Nesbitt had "misrepresented" the situation, and reforms would be implemented.

Story so far

It is over two years since the new Victims and Survivors Service got under way but it has been dogged by controversy. It provides support for all victims and survivors of the Troubles, including people who do not belong to victims' groups, with aims including a better co-ordination of funding and better targeted help for individuals.

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