Representing Victims of Terrorism in South Armagh
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FAIR representatives have returned from the Third International Victims of Terrorism Congress, held in Valencia Spain. The Congress has been uniting victims of terrorism and giving them a voice for over three years and FAIR has been recognised as the lead organisation in Northern Ireland and is working in partnership with the organisers to internationalise the plight of victims. This year William Frazer was an invited speaker and received a warm reception and struck a real cord with victims assembled. These included representatives from Colombia, ETA victims and those bereaved or injured in the Madrid bombings in Spain, the 9/11 families, Beslan victims, as well as Israeli and Oklahoma bomb victims and others from across the world united by their experience of terrorism.

In a remarkable show of solidarity with the victims the Spanish Royal family opened the proceedings and were represented by Crown Prince Don Felipe de Borbón, Prince of Asturias. His family like our own royal house has been the victim of terrorism and indeed security was tight for his attendance. The European Union was represented by Franco Frattini Vice-president of the European Commission and Commissioner for Subjects of Public Liberties, Security and Justice. FAIR took the opportunity to raise issues of fundamental concern and disparity with the Vice-President as it soon became clear that victims in Northern Ireland were being treated very differently than those in the rest of the world. For example in both the political process here, in funding provisions many of which come from the EU and in government policy towards victims we are forced to accept the terrorists as part of the arrangements.

It did shock both the Vice President and Spanish politicans to learn just what was happening in Northern Ireland and they agreed that it would not be asked in their countries. We will be following up this initial contact with a view to outlining the situation of victims here and asking the EU to address the impractical and immoral position that attempts to force victims to reconcile with the perpetrators. The rest of the groups represented sent out a clear message to governments around the world a message that FAIR has promoted for years - Terrorism is fundamentally wrong and terrorists cannot be legitimised, accommodated or negotiated with. Peace can only be secured through justice and democracy.

We were impressed by the very national sense of solidarity that Spain has with its victims. A range of television, media and music personalities as well as the presidents of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia Football Clubs all took to the stage to show their support. The sense of pride and love for victims from both the government and civic society is something that is clearly absent in Northern Ireland. All those we spoke to were shocked and saddened by how victims were treated in N Ireland and how they were being forced to accept the perpetrators of terrorism in their midst. Indeed many of the speakers referred to the recent attempt by the Labour government to impose an amnesty for terrorism as an example of all that is wrong in terms of defeating terrorism. The sheer hypocrisy of the British government was exposed and understood by all those present and the victims present sent messages of support to the people of Northern Ireland.

For too long the truth of what has happened here has went untold, Republican terrorists have held centre stage and have had a monopoly on the propaganda front. They have been forging links with terrorist groups around the globe now the victims have united to counter these international terrorist networks. The people of our country will no longer suffer in silence treated as second class citizens by not only terrorists but also the government, we will take our case to those who will listen and make a difference.


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