British Prime Minister Tony Blair came under renewed pressure to appoint a Victims’ Commissioner in Northern Ireland today following his public apology to the Conlon and Maguire families.
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said: “On a day when the government are in the mood for making apologies, what are they doing about the long overdue creation of a Victims’ Commissioner for Northern Ireland?”
The Democratic Unionist Party MP said there was already a Human Rights Commissioner, a Children’s Commissioner and an Equality Commissioner, in Northern Ireland.
“Isn’t it only right and proper that the innocent victims of terrorist violence are put on the same footing and given an independent and active voice concentrating on and fighting for their needs?” asked Mr Dodds.
Victims felt neglected, he said. Obtaining funding for victims groups was often an uphill struggle, while prisoners groups received thousands of pounds from the public purse.
A Victims Commissioner – a concept supported by victims groups across the country – could stand up for victims and press the government for adequate funding for their invaluable work both now and in the future, said Mr Dodds.
A commissioner was a necessary, positive first step towards alleviating the plight of the innocent victims of the Troubles, he said.
The party had been pressing the issue with the Prime Minister and Ulster (Northern) Secretary, he said.
It still hoped a Commissioner for victims would be created - but it was high time the government pushed the matter to the top of its agenda.
“Nothing can ever relieve the pain of losing a loved one to terrorism but the innocent victims of violence deserve a lot more attention than they are currently receiving from the government,” added Mr Dodds.