Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Troubles victims take out ad condemning legacy failures

More than 150 relatives of people killed during the Troubles have taken out a full page newspaper advert as an open letter to the British Secretary of State Teresa Villiers, accusing the British government of failing in its obligations to address the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict.

Campaign groups, the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and Justice for the Forgotten have jointly taken out the ad on behalf of the bereaved families, who include the Reavey family from Whitecross and the Brecknell family from Silverbridge.   Both families suffered the loss of family members during horrific atrocities committed by the notorious loyalist murder squad, the Glenanne gang, in the 70’s.

The letter, which appeared in last Thursday’s Irish News, comes just weeks after politicians failed to reach agreement over how to investigate the past as part of the Fresh Start political deal struck in Stormont last month.

New mechanisms for dealing with the past had been agreed by politicians last year and included an independent Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) to take on outstanding investigations into Troubles-related deaths.

A dispute between Sinn Fein and the UK government derailed the process however and consensus could not be reached on how to address legacy issues in the new deal, with the main bone of contention being the Government’s insistence on retaining a veto, on national security grounds, over disclosing certain historic documents on Troubles killings.

“Your government is waiting for us to die off but our families will not go away,” the address to the Secretary of State reads.

“We demand a fully independent HIU and implementation of other legacy proposals.

“All bereaved families have a right to the truth, and to have their proposals on how to achieve that right, respected. Those are rights not privileges.”

They said it is a “sign of the anger, frustration and bitter disappointment felt by over 150 bereaved families at the abject failure of the politicians and British Government to implement the legacy proposals set out in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA)”.

Paul O’Connor from the PFC said further action, including a full-page ad in a British daily newspaper is being considered and that the anger and hurt voiced in the ad is the “tip of a very large iceberg”.

They added: “With goodwill, common sense and respect for international legal standards, the legitimate wish of families to the truth they so earnestly desire, and deserve, can be achieved.

“They, and we, appeal to every concerned member of the public – and all politicians – to renew their efforts to reach agreement on how to investigate the past. Now is the time to set the truth free.”