Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Forgotten Zaoui true face of legacy issues

A wrecked office block in London’s South Quays station in the Docklands, following an IRA bomb
A wrecked office block in London’s South Quays station in the Docklands, following an IRA bomb

Editor's Viewpoint

How many of us remember Zaoui Berezag? He was a cleaner whose life was changed for ever when the IRA detonated a huge bomb in the Docklands area of London in 1996. Mr Berezag was left brain injured, with a metal plate in his head and requiring constant care.

Now he has died at the age of 77 and anyone who reads our interview with his daughter Rajaa today cannot help but be moved by what that family has endured for the past 22 years.

The strain of being principal carer for Zaoui eventually proved too much for his devoted wife Gemma, who took her own life two years ago. His daughter describes the family's life as being destroyed.

The Berezag family had no interest in the Irish Troubles. They didn't take sides - they probably did not understand what the conflict here was all about.

But the Troubles sought them out. They became collateral damage. Mr Berezag was not only injured, but his family suffered grievously and lengthily.

He was a forgotten victim and his family lived out a life sentence in solitude.

Their story could almost be a parable for the legacy of the Troubles, the issue which has proved so intractable for far too long as politicians and lobby groups have argued over definitions of perpetrators and victims.

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There is no question that this family were innocent victims of the Troubles. There are thousands like them, although with every passing week, month and year their numbers diminish. Rajaa complains that her family never even got justice. A man convicted for his role in the bombing was sentenced to 25 years in jail but served only two. There was no Royal Prerogative of Mercy which could shorten the family's life sentence.

Victims are like those Russian dolls - lift one and another sits underneath and so on and so on. For every direct casualty there are so many more people affected and all feel ignored, their pleas unheard and their trauma unhealed.

Dealing with the past is often discussed at macro political level, a policy issue. But the legacy of the past is deeply personal to everyone affected. They live with the real consequences of what others did - and also with what others have not done to help them in the ensuing years.

We should remember Zaoui Berezag when we think of legacy issues. He may have been forgotten in life but he should be remembered in death.

Belfast Telegraph


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