Politicians 'failing victims of violence'

The British government, Sinn Féin and the DUP are all failing the victims of the North's decades of violence, it was claimed today.

Politicians 'failing victims of violence'

The British government, Sinn Féin and the DUP are all failing the victims of the North's decades of violence, it was claimed today.

Denis Bradley, who drew up ambitious plans to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, hit out after fears the British government is set to unveil watered-down proposals.

He declared there would be no Truth Commission and said the IRA is "leading victims up the garden path", while the DUP is "using their divided society" to delay any probe of how and why the Troubles took place.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson will make proposals next year on dealing with the fallout of the conflict, but a conference of victims' groups in Belfast heard fears that a weak response will consign society to further years of hate and suspicion.

But Mr Bradley said: "It's not just the British government. I don't accept the Sinn Féin position on this at all, at all, at all.

"Let me be very clear about that. I think there is roguery going on here. I think there is no desire within the IRA for a Truth Commission and I think they are leading victims up the garden path.

"So I am as angry and annoyed with the IRA as I am with the British government ... I don't think they will come forward if Gerry Adams, not alone appealed to them, but screamed at them."

He added: "If I would be critical of Sinn Féin on this, I would be equally critical of the DUP, who really don't want to know this issue - they really don't. It's: 'Just let it go out there, let it float, time and tide will deal with this one'.

"I have seen nothing of any difference from that on the DUP side ... I think they are using their very divided society - more divided than the republican/nationalist society - to actually keep this at a great distance."

He was questioned by a member of the audience at the Ulster Hall event about the £20m (€23.9m) compensation scheme announced by Government for former part-time security force members, despite the refusal to follow his recommendation to give bereaved families £12,000 (€14,332) each.

Mr Bradley said: "The dirty little deals - I call them dirty - that are done around the side ... were done as political deals to get certain people into certain positions."

He claimed those involved in violence, including many IRA members and security force members, had no desire to reveal their past.

But other contributors claimed the outcome of the Bloody Sunday Tribunal, and the relative success of a special commission formed to gather evidence on finding the bodies of people murdered and secretly buried, had shown that co-operation could be secured from those involved in the conflict.

The conference heard praise for the Eames-Bradley report, which is regarded as the most high-profile bid to devise a plan for settling the legacy of the Troubles, but which observers fear the British government has effectively binned.

His report envisaged a broad effort to deal with the needs of victims, to strive to deliver accounts of what happened to those killed, and compile a study of how and why the conflict took place. But it suffered negative publicity over a call to hand the next of kin of each victim £12,000 (€14,332).

Mr Bradley said that while the plan he helped devise would have been implemented in five years and cost £300m (€358.3m), with £100m (€119.44m) going towards health issues, British government failure to deal with the past will prolong social problems and cost much more in the long run.

He said of the UK government: "They may be seeking a soft landing, but there are no soft landings, it just doesn't happen."

He added: "It is a bigger issue than just victims, because every aspect of our society is affected by the past. That has economic, as well as educational, as well as cultural, as well as political implications."

The event - The Past is Still Present - included a wide range of victims' groups, plus head of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Monica McWilliams and former police ombudsman Dame Nuala O'Loan. The event was co-ordinated by the Committee on the Administration of Justice.

Mr Bradley challenged the victims' groups to form a more unified approach to dealing with the past.

Alan McBride, whose wife and father-in-law were among nine killed in an IRA bomb attack on the Shankill Road in 1993, told the conference: "We cannot build the shared future that we all want, unless the past is adequately dealt with.

"But I don't believe our politicians will deliver unless they are under pressure."

Mr Bradley told the event there would not be a "South African-style" Truth Commission for the North.

However, he urged victims' groups to use his proposals as a template for developing an agreed model for the North.

He conceded he had failed to force the British government to act on his report, but defended its contents as the best way of tackling the impact of the Troubles.

He added: "You cannot ignore that part of our history."

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