Troubles Pension Law Does Not Bar Terrorists – Newsletter 26.07.2019

At least not until we get in the legislation absolute certainty, clarity and transparency around the introduction of a pension for victims and survivors of the terrorist campaign that has blighted a generation.

We have seen the headlines, the government assurances given on the floor of the House of Commons as well as the apparent relief that followed. Northern Ireland Office Minister, John Penrose MP, said that while it was right and proper to provide a pension for victims of Troubles-related terrorist incidents, “this should not become a pension for terrorists.”

And for good measure, in a further most welcome contribution, Mr Penrose stated that “there is no moral equivalence between a bystander badly injured in a terrorist explosion through no fault of their own, and the people who manufactured the bomb, placed the bomb and detonated the bomb.”

Why, therefore, is the Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Service not satisfied with what on the face of it, at least, is an unambiguous Parliamentary statement? What has changed since the unfortunate and ill-advised recommendation by the Victims’ Commissioner who refused to close the door to terrorists qualifying for pensions?

Pension parity between victims and the perpetrators of scores of murders, bomb attacks, so-called punishment shootings and beatings, abductions and untold economic damage inflicted on Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be an outrage and an insult. The Urgent Question tabled by the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly extracted from the Minister a reply that was required – but only as a first step.

So far, so good or so it would appear.

It’s only when you delve into the detail of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, the legislative instrument, that you find a dearth of detail and certainly nothing that matches the weighty and welcome Ministerial words of Mr Penrose.

In fact, the legislation offers no guarantees whatsoever that terrorists will be denied a pension. The devil is in the detail, specifically Section 3(11) and Section 6.

According to Section 3 (11), the Secretary of State must publish a report before 4 September ‘on progress towards preparing legislation implementing a pension for seriously injured victims and survivors of Troubles-related incidents.’ This is in line with the ‘interpretation’ of victim and survivor in Article 3 of the Order 2006 – an ‘interpretation’ which clearly and intentionally equates the perpetrator with the innocent victim.

Interestingly, Section 3 (14) provides that the Secretary of State must also publish a report before the 4 September ‘on whether the definition of “victim” in Article 3 of the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 should be revised to apply only to a person who is injured or affected wholly through the actions of another person’. A report is one thing, but there is no mention here of progress towards legislation for a ‘new definition of a victim’.

The likely outcome is that on 4 September we will have proposed legislation for a pension and only an opinion as to whether or not the definition of ‘victim’ should be changed. As long as the definition of victim is not changed, there is nothing to prevent terrorists from getting the pension whatever Ministers may be saying along the way.

In the Ulster Human Rights Watch’s view, this is a very dangerous, if not a deceitful, omission. There is a definite requirement for nothing less than watertight legislation to prevent perpetrators from benefiting financially. Bad enough that terrorists of whatever hue should cause such heartache and pain, but it would be an act of unspeakable callousness and a double injustice to victims and survivors if they were to gain in any way from their barbarity.

For these reasons, the Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Service advises against any premature celebration and instead urges all victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom to continue to be vigilant. We welcome the encouraging words at Westminster, but much work remains to be done before 4 September so that the report on the pension for victims will result in the necessary legislation being proposed and enacted, which protects victims of terrorism and does not reward the perpetrators – anything less is not acceptable.

Expediency Should Play No Part in Troubles Pensions – Newsletter 23.07.2019

There is something seriously wrong when a suggested remedy on Northern Ireland’s troubled past causes those in greatest need of help to be re-traumatised and hurt.

Hundreds of good people, some grappling with daily anguish and intolerable pain, have been left financially high and dry because of an inability to sort out and or acknowledge the true meaning of the term ‘victims and survivors’.

Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW), (a registered charity with the remit of helping innocent victims of the thirty plus years terrorist campaign), believes that a person who was shot, maimed or psychologically scarred by the actions of the gunman or bomber, from whatever side, should qualify for a victim’s or survivor’s pension.

In contrast it also asserts that those who planted the bomb or pulled the trigger do not deserve to be rewarded with State funds for attempting to murder and cause mayhem – they are not victims or survivors. The very people who perpetrated countless acts of savagery deserve nothing. In fact, the bomber whose bomb prematurely detonated, causing permanent disability to himself, should not have any expectation of any State ‘reward’ whatsoever.

This is a matter of what’s right and wrong. And, simply, it’s wrong to include the terrorists in the same category as the people they set out to hurt or kill. The Ulster Human Rights Watch believes that political expediency should form no part of deciding who qualifies for a pension.

The dangers of placating and rewarding paramilitary criminals and giving them equivalence with victims and survivors is an anathema, indeed it is an appalling injustice. All it would succeed in doing would be to cause additional unnecessary suffering and make those innocents who bore the brunt of a monstrous murder campaign suffer further enormous distress and a sense of worthlessness.

There is no other civilised country in the world where terrorists are rewarded for their actions. Why should the UK, and specifically Northern Ireland, decide it can be out of step with international norms by essentially saying the terrorist gunman, wounded during an engagement with the security forces, is now on a par with the soldier or police officer left with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or a life-changing physical injury?

Lives scarred by terrorism should not have to be re-traumatised in this manner. Any objective assessment will see that turning natural justice on its head in such a hurtful and disrespectful manner is counter-productive and a denial of the truth. The recent revised advice, offered to the Secretary of State by the Victims Commissioner, lacks decency, sensitivity, empathy and respect for real victims of terrorism.

It should and must be rejected by the Government.

Newsletter Article 23.07.2019

Tribute to William Frazer

The members of the Board and staff of the UHRW would like to express their sympathy to the family of William Frazer and particularly to his wife and son.

Those who met or heard Mr Frazer speak at various events were not left indifferent. He went through the trauma of losing his father at the age of 14, who was murdered by IRA terrorists. This harrowing experience was further exacerbated by the murder of four other members of his family by the same terrorist organisation. Yet William Frazer never engaged in any form of retaliation against those who were responsible for murdering his loved ones or who directed acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland. On the contrary he courageously bore the marks of a victim of terrorism and this led him to take a stand against terrorism.

While he never claimed to be well-educated, and was a somewhat private and unassuming person, one could not help being impressed by his fearless approach of those who opposed his views and his stand. He may not have done all things well and wisely, but he was aware of his limitations. Like other Ulstermen before him William Frazer was his own man, independent minded, who tried to follow the course of action he had chosen to the very end.

For those who believe in God, the sadness of his departure is replaced with the joy of knowing that, since he was also a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is now with the Lord, which is far better.

San Francisco Mayor Apologises

The apology made by San Francisco Mayor London Breed for the outrageous award, commending Martin McGuinness for his ‘courageous service in the military’, is welcomed by Ulster Human Rights Watch. Victims of terrorism and those espousing democratic values throughout society were rightly horrified by such offensive glorification of terrorism, and we hope that this humiliating climb down will also reverse the propaganda value of the award for those who continue to justify terrorism and large scale abuses of human rights as legitimate ways to further political agendas.

While criticism has rightly been directed over the Atlantic, we may forget that the campaign to rewrite history in order to whitewash terrorism, and particularly republican terrorism, as lawful and legitimate, and to vilify the security forces, continues apace. Ms. Breed and her award may be seen as just this – legitimising brutal IRA terrorist activity by redefining it as ‘courageous service in the military’.

By the same yardstick the UK government and authorities have acted no better in playing into this agenda – and there is no apology or change of heart forthcoming here. We have a de facto definition of ‘victims’, in the Victims and Survivors (NI) Order 2006, that makes a moral equivalence between the innocent victims of terrorism and the violent perpetrators of terrorist acts. This also serves the terrorist’s agenda in the rewriting of history, whitewashing their crimes by placing them on the same moral level as those they killed.

The proposed Historical Investigations Unit, as a new body for dealing with the past, seeks to make a moral equivalence between police misconduct and acts of terrorism. Again this is a part of the terrorist’s agenda and the rewriting of history.

The message sent from the decision of the PPS yesterday to prosecute a soldier 47 years after Bloody Sunday, while terrorists are let out of prison on license, have letters of comfort and OTRs, again sends the same message that there was legitimacy to terrorist acts which deserve to be ignored, while security forces who were there to stand between terrorists and society, must be vilified as the criminals and chased to the grave.

San Francisco’s mayor was right to apologise, and maybe she even deserves a fool’s pardon. The UK statutory facilitation of the same agenda deserves no such forgiveness and should be stopped.

La Mon Remembered

On Friday 15 February 2019 a commemorative event for the victims of the La Mon House Bombing took place in Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council attended by The Right Worshipful the Mayor, Councillor Uel Mackin.

The service of remembrance took place amidst beautiful sunshine outside Council Headquarters in front of a bench dedicated to the memory of the twelve victims who lost their lives in the tragedy.

Mr Mayor read the names of the victims and two bunches of flowers were laid on the bench and in front of it, one by Trevor, the grandson of Mr James Mills who lost both his wife and sister in the atrocity, and the other by a representative of the Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Service who has been supporting the victims in their quest for truth and justice.

According to the wishes expressed by Mr William McDowell, whose wife was one of the most seriously injured and who passed away in 2013, the Advocacy Support Manager for the Ulster Human Rights Watch, Axel Schmidt, delivered a short address to the people assembled. He spoke on the basis of the last verses of the book of Ecclesiastes (Chap. 12 v. 13-14). The proceedings were concluded with the Lord’s prayer being recited by all those in attendance.

This was the 41st Anniversary of the La Mon House Bombing, when on 17th February 1978 the IRA planted a bomb outside the restaurant that exploded with a napalm effect. The fire spread so rapidly that twelve people remained trapped inside the building and lost their lives. Twenty-three others were injured, some very seriously. To this day the victims of the terrorist attack remain scarred physically and emotionally.

The office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI) has just confirmed that the complaint lodged by the victims in this case will be the first to be investigated as soon as an investigation team is available to do so.

Teebane Remembered 20/01/2019

On Sunday afternoon, 20 January, around 40 people, adults and children, gathered at the roadside on the A505 between Omagh and Cookstown in front of the memorial that reminds all passers-by of the awful tragedy known as the Teebane Bombing, that happened 27 years ago. The PSNI had diverted the traffic so as to enable the commemoration service to take place in a quiet atmosphere on this cold but clear day.

On 17 January 1992, at about 5.10pm, the Tyrone brigade of the Provisional IRA detonated a bomb planted on the side of the road just as a Mercedes van transporting workers from Karl Construction was approaching the Teebane junction, about 16 miles from Omagh in the direction of Cookstown. Fourteen workers were travelling home in the van from Lisanelly Army Barracks in Omagh when the device exploded, killing seven men instantly and wounding seven others. One of the wounded never regained consciousness and died four days later in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. Eight men in all lost their lives in the attack.

The bomb contained 300-500 lbs of home-made explosives packed into two blue barrels. It was detonated from a power source located at the vantage point, 230 metres up the hill overlooking the road that the van was due to travel. A command wire was hidden in the field along the Loughdoo Road under loose grass, connecting the detonator within the blue barrel to a battery pack which was the power source for the device. The bomb created a crater 6.4 metres in diameter and 1.4 metres deep in the grass verge on the side of the road.

The murdered men were David Samuel Harkness, William Gary Alexander Bleeks, John Robert Dunseith, John Richard McConnell, Cecil James Caldwell, Nigel William John McKee, Robert Irons and Oswald Wilson Gilchrist.

The fourteen employees had been working on a security force contract at the Lisanelly Barracks. Over the previous twelve months they had been travelling in a van belonging to Karl Construction, using the same route between Magherafelt and Omagh every working day, morning and evening. The road had not been secured by the RUC against a terrorist attack.

No one has ever been charged for the murders of the eight Karl Construction workers. A complaint lodged by victims was accepted within the remit of the Historical Investigation Directorate of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland in September 2018 and will be investigated in due course …

The commemoration service was conducted by the Reverend William McCrea, who preached about the need to remember those who were murdered by IRA terrorists on that day. He emphasised that the duty of remembrance must be passed down from one generation to the next so that young people may prevent the tragedies of the past from being repeated in the future. He stated that if those who planned and perpetrated that wicked act are not caught in this life, they will face a day of accountability before the God of Heaven.


Letter to Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

One consequence of the lack of government in Northern Ireland has been the suspension of requests for copies of inquest and court files from PRONI under the Privileged Access Scheme, and now the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It is the view of UHRW that this is unacceptable to victims and potentially a breach of procedural obligations under Article 2 of the ECHR. Please view of letter to Secretary of State Karen Bradley MP raising this very important issue.

Letter to SOS 10-12-2018

UHRW Submission to Legacy Consultation

The NIO Legacy Consultation Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past finally closed today. Following detailed analysis of these proposals and widescale consultation with victims of terrorism and other stakeholders, Ulster Human Rights Watch believe that as they stand, these proposals will be detrimental to the interests of innocent victims and will only serve to further the interests of the perpetrators. The system on offer will facilitate the rewriting of history to justify acts of terrorism, and activate a state sanctioned witch-hunt of ex-security force members, particularly ex-police officer. UHRW call for a withdrawal of these proposals, and have set forward what we believe will be a viable alternative that would put the needs of the victims of terrorism first.

UHRW response to NIO legacy consultation

NIO Legacy Consultation Questionnaire – Proposed Responses

Following the conference organised by Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW), which took place in Brownlow House on 30th August 2018, several people requested to be provided with summary responses to the NIO questionnaire. In answer to these requests the NIO questionnaire with the proposed responses in italic has been prepared. It should be noted that the proposed responses are to assist those who wish to answer the questionnaire and who remain free to use/amend them as they see fit. For further information please do not hesitate to consult the Legacy Consultation Booklet and the Legacy Consultation Conference Presentation.

The proposed responses to the NIO questionnaire along with our Legacy Consultation Booklet, the Legacy Consultation Guidance Notes and the Legacy Consultation Conference Presentation can be found in the Downloads section.

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