Relatives of Derry people shot dead during the Troubles have protested outside Stormont where politicians were gathering to engage in talks to resolve the current impasse in the devolved institutions.
Kate and Linda Nash whose brother William was shot dead on Bloody Sunday and whose father Alexander was also wounded, as well as Helen Deery whose 15-year-old brother Manus was shot dead by the British Army, also in 1972, were present in Belfast.
The relatives are challenging the assertion that a deal about dealing with the past was signed off by the main political parties during the negotiations leading to the Stormont House Agreement last December. Whilst some of the political parties have denied such a deal was reached it is understood that paramilitaries and members of the British security forces who particpated in the more than 3,000 murders that took place during the Troubles will receive pardons.
Part of the apparent deal has been the establishment of a ‘Implementation and Reconciliation Group’, where in exchange for a ‘statement of acknowledgement’ the perpetrator will be allowed to walk free with an assurance they will not face prosecution. It is also understood that victims families will never be made aware that the confessions have taken place. The main political parties have denied that such a deal has taken place or that legislation setting it in stone is due before Westminster in the next few weeks.
Kate Nash was scathing in her assessment of the situation and said the entire episode was an exercise in “deception”.
“We are just collateral damage to them. We cannot let them dismiss the pain our father suffered after the murder of our brother William. Every single political party has betrayed us.
“It is being denied that this amounts to an amnesty, but that is what it is. This is about all victim’s cases. We had to travel to Stormont to voice our concerns because we need to make these politicians think about what they are doing.”
Whilst Kate Nash confronted SDLP MP for Foyle, Mark Durkan, on the issue as his party delegation gathered for the crisis talks, she said her message was equally applicable to all the political parties.
Mr Durkan told the ‘Journal’: “I appreciate the misgivings which they and other victims have about some of the terms for dealing with the past. While they may be confusing some of the detail their suspicion is understandable and some underlying concerns may be well-founded based on experience. Some of the points they raised have been raised by the SDLP in discussions on the interpretation and implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.Indeed, Alex Attwood has offered to share papers which we have submitted in recent weeks which would show this.”
In August a meeting was held at a hotel in Derry by victim’s relatives seeking to clarify the issues surrounding how the deal with the past arising out of the Stormont House Agreement. However, despite inviting representatives of the Department of Justice to attend they withdrew at the final hour.
We are just collateral damage to them-Kate Nash
In a statement published days after the meeting in the Derry hotel a statement from the affected relatives concluded: “As victims’ family members all we ask for is meaningful engagement on these issues and that the draft legislation be made available for public scrutiny. It is time for those in Government to prove there is no hierarchy of victims. Anything less further besmirches the memories of our loved ones.”