A prominent campaigner against state violence claims the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors has got it ‘badly wrong’ with the latest round of appointments to the Victims and Survivors Forum.
John Kelly, whose brother Michael was one of 14 Derry men murdered by British paratroopers on Bloody Sunday, told the ‘Journal’: ‘I cannot, in good conscience, support any Forum which shows such total under-representation of people affected by state violence.
‘How can we forget that the British Army, the RUC and the UDR have been responsible for hundreds of innocent deaths during the conflict? It is vital that this is recognised and immediately rectified by the Commissioner, Judith Thompson.’
Mr Kelly, who has now resigned from the panel from which new Forum members are chosen, said that, while he applauds all those involved in the Forum, he cannot give it his support.
‘I believe that the commissioner has got this wrong, badly wrong, and I would urge her to explain the reasons behind these appointments. Until this forum is properly balanced, I can’t see how it can claim to represent victims here.”
Mr Kelly’s sentiments have been echoed by the Bloody Sunday Trust which has described the Victims and Survivors Forum as an ‘important and worthwhile institution’.
“It is, therefore, all the more disappointing that the Forum, which had 10 new members appointed late last week, will have no representatives of those made victims by the state and their security agencies,” said Trust chairman Robin Percival. “Like other organisations working with or on behalf of victims, such as Relatives for Justice, Cúnamh and the Pat Finucane Centre, we acknowledge that the 23 person strong Forum includes many individuals with experience and integrity. Our criticism is directed at the failure of the Commissioner to make appointments which reflect the full cross-section of victims in the North. It is not a reflection on any individual member of the Forum.
‘In the recent conflict, many hundreds of people were killed or injured by state agencies such as the
British Army, RUC and UDR. Yet the Commissioner seems to be unaware of this given her appointments. We believe her decision will, undoubtedly, significantly reduce the confidence that many victims will have in the
Forum. We believe the Commissioner must rectify this omission as a matter of urgency.”