Representing Victims of Terrorism in South Armagh
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No Peace Without Justice

Ahead of this week’s ‘Leeds Castle talks’, victims group FAIR have outlined the expectations of victims who are determined not to be excluded once more from negotiations that will decide their future. Victims have given their all to secure a peaceful democratic future for all in Northern Ireland and we will not stand idly by and see our costly sacrifice squandered. In the run up to the 1998 Agreement victims were not organised and left without a voice, in 2004 we are a strong organised community who have legitimate constructive demands. Already we have been encouraged as the DUP has met with us and has accepted a position paper from the group.

The paper outlined the minimum requirements victims needed before they would support any deal; and offered constructive comment on the approach taken by the political parties. We have outlined how victims can be included and better represented, and how their rights can be guaranteed and defended in line with international standards, proposing a Victims Commission as a workable solution. Any deal must include justice, recognition and proper provision for the innocent victims. In short we feel victims must be a central feature of this deal and subsequent government policy. We will not accept the current arrangements which would see a Sinn Fein/IRA minister in control of victims issues.

As victims we find the involvement of terrorists in the democratic process and governance of our country unacceptable and have proposed mechanisms to protect the democratic process and end terrorism. The issue of decommissioning must not be used once more to sidetrack the debate, illegal weaponry is a symptom not a cause of a wider and deeper problem. The existence of those in society who are willing and able to use violence to further their political, criminal or territorial aimsmust be ended. They and their political apologists can no longer be allowed to benefit from the political process or to hold democracy to ransom. It is the mindset not the munitions of Sinn Fein/IRA and all other terrorist groups that must be decommissioned.

We see victims and their representatives, who live in the same communities as these people, being best placed to monitor compliance. Victims are willing and able to play a part in the progress towards peace, they must be included and their views sought. At a time when the government and in particular the Chief Constable continues to strip the last vestiges of defence from isolated communities the continuing intimidation and violence must be exposed. We have urged the parties to take South Armagh as a case study, an area of special attention used to monitor the intentions and actions of Sinn Fein/IRA. We are not interested in singular ‘Acts of Completion’ such stunts mask the need for a process of completion. A statement that the war is over, that the use of violence to advance a political, criminal or territorial agenda is no longer acceptable and a period where the commitment to that is tested and proven must take place.

While we would not recognise the legitimacy of any involvement of the Irish government in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland we do welcome their positive contribution as a neighbouring state. However to place this relationship on a firm foundation of trust, they must allow their role in the conflict to be examined. The issue of state collusion with Irish Republican terrorist groups must be fully examined, and they like the United Kingdom government with the Saville Inquiry must face their responsibilities.

As we have already stated we wish all parties who will uphold democracy well in the talks. As the largest unionist party we have confidence in the DUP and do not underestimate the difficulty they face. We wish Dr Paisley well in personal and professional terms and feel confident his years of experience will lend weight to the arguments he presents. In conclusion we urge all parties to remember their electorates, to inform and include them, and to take time to consider any deal. We would rather see this than the same mistakes of 1998 repeated, where politicians were closeted away and pressured, where ambiguity replaced honesty and where compromise overtook common sense. We have already paid the price for peace with our lives, we will not be prepared to pay again by accepting our murderers in government. The price of peace is not the loss the justice and freedom we want peace with honour. Victims expect a deal that will uphold democracy, end terrorism, honour the memory of their sacrifice and provide a lasting peace for their children.


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