By Kelly McAllister, reporting for VIEWdigital
Victims and survivors of the Northern Ireland conflict have hit out at the lack of help to respond to a government consultation on dealing with the legacy of The Troubles.
A public survey closes in September but some people affected by the Northern Ireland conflict said they need more help to get their views heard by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Karen Bradley and civil servants in the Northern Ireland Office.
At Queens University Belfast, during a recent ‘Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past’ event attended by civil servants, many victims and survivors asked why they had not been better informed about the public consultation and how older people were expected to access information online when some of them did not know how to use email or the internet.
The Secretary of State, Karen Bradley has asked for victims and survivors to complete an online survey in a bid to find out how they feel about a proposal for four new legacy institutions to address the past.
The Troubles claimed the lives of more than 3,500 people. Victims, survivors and bereaved loved ones at the event shared their experiences and raised issues on dealing with the past in the North.
Advocacy Caseworker at Omagh Support and self-help group, Nichola McGowan, speaking following the 20th anniversary of the Omagh Bombing, in which 29 people – including a woman pregnant with twins – were killed in the 1998 Real IRA attack, said that the proposals do not meet the needs of all those affected by The Troubles.
“A lot of the victims feel that they aren’t going to be acknowledged in these proposals. It only looks at those who have been injured, they are not looking at the psychological injuries,” she said.
“Quite a lot of our membership is an elderly one and the proposals that they have come out with are very difficult to understand for a lot of people who have been affected. There was a large drop-out rate in schools and there have been literacy problems as well, so we find that this consultation hasn’t been up to scratch.”
Campaigner John Teggart, whose father was one of 11 people shot dead by British Army soldiers in Ballymurphy in August 1971, which has become known as the ‘Ballymurphy Massacre’, said: “It is important for victims’ families and survivors to be in the one room speaking from the heart. There is a story behind every face here and at events like this you will hear the victim’s side.”
Victim rights campaigner and event organiser, Raymond McCord, said the public consultation is essential in determining what victims want.
“The most important people are the victims and survivors of The Troubles. We are tired of being told what we are going to have and what is best for us”, he said.
“It is always political decisions, but this is an opportunity here today for victims and the general public to speak on these documents.”
The consultation will close on Monday September 10. The survey can be completed at www.gov.uk/nio