Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Treatment of victims a scar on our history

Editor's Viewpoint

If we needed any further proof of the difficulty of dealing with the past then we only have to reflect on two events at the weekend. One was a rally in Belfast city centre supported by families of those killed by loyalists and the security forces. The previous day, the Orange Order and family members commemorated the 30th anniversary of the deaths of two UDR men killed by an IRA booby-trap bomb, also in the city centre.

All those relatives have one thing in common - the still raw pain of the loss of loved ones. That has lasted decades, in most cases, and today they are no nearer either finding out the truth about the deaths or seeing perpetrators brought to justice for them.

Yet such was the divisive nature of the conflict which besmirched the name of this province that still those relatives cannot come together in a common demand for truth and justice, whatever form either may take. It is as if they live in parallel universes and were not bereaved by what we now know was a dirty war.

It is because of the different narratives which the two communities hold of the conflict that finding a common solution is so difficult. We only have to look at the present political dogfight over what agreement, if any, was reached between Sinn Fein and the government on legacy issues, and who else knew about it.

Many people find it shameful that political bickering and point scoring should be at the expense of the people who lost most from the conflict. Why should the identity of the person who pulled the trigger or planted the bomb determine how we should react to an unlawful killing?

There should be no place for side deals on legacy issues. Those people bereaved by the Troubles deserve to be treated fairly and with compassion instead of being bargaining chips in some political posturing game.

It is difficult to imagine that victims groups anywhere else in western democracies would be treated so shamefully over decades. Their loved ones died because of the inability of people here to create an inclusive society, an inability which was cruelly exploited by republican and loyalist terrorists. Surely we can now show some common decency towards the bereaved.

They have endured pain for far too long. If the political parties here cannot reach agreement on this issue, then the Northern Ireland Office should put forward its proposals for dealing with the past and put them out to consultation.

Belfast Telegraph

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