::: u.tv :::

Remember 'silent victims' of the troubles, govt urged

MONDAY 27/09/2004 15:46:23 UTV

The British government needs to be more conscious of those who have
lost relatives and friends in some of Northern Ireland's lesser known
killings, ministers were told today.

By:Press Association

Just days after Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy announced an
inquiry into the controversial 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat
Finucane, Ulster Unionist Assembly member Billy Armstrong said he was
concerned about the British government`s handling of thousands of
other murder cases.

The Mid Ulster MLA said: "I am increasingly concerned of the
methodology gvernment practises when dealing with the victims issue.

"We learn recently of the establishment of a public inquiry into the
Pat Finucane case. For many years the Finucane killing has received
prominence within the local media as have the Bloody Sunday events.

"However, to date, the government has failed miserably in providing
for the many thousand innocent victims of terrorist violence whose
loves ones were slain by terrorist extremists over the last 30-plus

"The government must afford these people equilibrium."
In late May and early June, Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy
travelled to South Africa to learn how it handled its truth and
reconciliation process.

Northern Ireland`s most senior policeman, Hugh Orde, has also talked
about the need to have a truth and reconciliation mechanism which can
finally address the past.

However it is not yet clear whether an independent commission will be
set up or if the government will opt for another type of storytelling

The British government has already ordered inquiries into four
controversial murders - Mr Finucane`s death, the killing of Lurgan
solicitor Rosemary Nelson, the brutal attack on Portadown Catholic
Robert Hamill and the gunning down of Loyalist Volunteer Force leader
Billy Wright in the high security Maze Prison.

However the family of Mr Finucane, nationalist politicians and human
rights activists have been angered by suggestions that much of the
inquiry into allegations of police and Army collusion in his murder
will be heard behind closed doors because of national security.

Mr Armstrong said today in thousands of other lesser known cases,
victims needed appropriate resources for counselling, support and
financial assistance.

"Thousands of victims have never received a fair hearing," the Ulster
Unionist MLA said.

"Many of their loved ones` killers have never been brought to justice.

"They continue to walk the streets of our province having never been
made accountable for their heinous crimes.

"The government must act decisively in ensuring that these silent
victims are granted the respect, understanding and support which they

"These victims have not embarked upon politically motivated campaigns.

"They rightfully expect that their government will support them and
will do all in its power to bring those who murdered their loved ones
to account.

"They are not asking for much. They are simply asking for justice."

At an Agreed Ireland Forum event at the Labour Party conference on
Sunday night, Sinn Fein human rights spokesperson Catriona Ruane
insisted the British government should not be given control over any
truth process.

The South Down Assembly member told the fringe event in Brighton: "If
there is to be a statutory `Truth Commission` then it needs to be
totally independent and deal with the conflict in a comprehensive

"There can be no hierarchy of victims and all of the protagonists
need to be willing to co-operate with it fully and openly.

"Under no circumstances can the British government set the parameters
of such a commission and it must also be willing to co-operate fully
with it.

"The British government and its agencies were one of the main
protagonists in the conflict and acted with impunity throughout the
past 35 years. It therefore cannot set itself up as the arbiter in
any Truth Commission."

Nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan, who also joined the debate,
called for a meeting of the Victims and Survivors Forum proposed in
the British and Irish governments` joint declaration last year to
design a truth and remembrance process.

He said an independent team of investigators should be appointed to
probe murder cases during the Troubles which had not been properly
investigated, instead of the Police Service of Northern Ireland
taking on the responsibility.

"From one perspective, the PSNI should not be burdened with
investigating all these past cases," he said.

"From another perspective, they would not be trusted with them."

Sinn Fein Assembly member Raymond McCartney welcomed the SDLP
leader`s comments but claimed it was an admission from Mr Durkan that
his party was wrong to sign up to policing when they did.

"When Mark Durkan says that the PSNI `would not be trusted` to
investigate controversial past killings, he is absolutely correct,"
the Foyle Assembly member responded.

"By accepting that many nationalists would not trust the PSNI to
investigate previous murders, particularly where they are implicated
either as a result of direct collusion or more indirectly of
mishandling the investigation, Mark Durkan also accepts the SDLP
called it wrong on policing.

"The truth is that many nationalists see the same people in the PSNI
today that were also in the RUC.

"They are the same people who operated a policy of collusion and the
same people who failed to deliver policing to the nationalist

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