Newsletter Campaign 11: Sam’s flashbacks and nightmares continue 27 years after ambush

Sam Sleith has terrible flashbacks….nightmares where he flails about in his sleep reliving gun attacks and bomb detonations.

Sam served in the UDR and twenty-seven years on from an ambush in the Markets area of Belfast, his frightening recollections flood back like a video with the button stuck on constant play.

His PTSD sees him on patrol after 11 pm. Gunfire is directed at them and a Lance Corporal colleague and friend is hit in the side of the face.

At first, it was thought he sustained a flesh wound, but hours later in hospital, medical staff discovered the injured soldier was full of shrapnel and that the bullet had come close to his spinal cord.

The legacy of that ambush has been life-changing and permanent.

Sam says: “ I won’t go to bed until after one o’clock because I know that if the sleeping tabled doesn’t work – you’ve a forty-five minute window for that to work –  you’re up all night because everything is going through your head.

“I don’t know how many mattresses we’ve had to buy because of the sweating. You’d think somebody had come in and put a hose on you. You’re just absolutely soaked.”

Sam isn’t the only victim. His wife, Linda, can sometimes be the unintended victim of the night-time torment.

“The worst thing of all that I fear is that I attack her some nights in my sleep. I’ve nipped her, left bruises on her, I’m actually fighting,” explains Sam.

On the delayed Victims’ Payment Scheme, Sam offers this piece of advice to legislators: “Pay up! Just pay up! It’s not a fortune and we’re all dying off. It’s not forever. You know, people have died who should have been due a pension.

“It would make so much difference to some people’s lives, even if its £20 a-week. That’s a difference to somebody getting electric or gas. …..They (politicians) gave us the impression that it was signed, sealed and dusted, and now they’re quibbling over who pays for it.

“….I don’t know if anybody has worked it out, what it would be over the period of time,  but you’re not talking billions or anything, you know, but the people who really deserve it are the innocent civilians who had absolutely nothing to do with it.”

Click here to view article

Newsletter Campaign 10: Perpetrator and victim are two different things, says sister of man murdered by loyalists

Today, Colette Murray will be reliving the horror of what happened to her brother, Cyril, twenty-eight years ago.

Shortly after midnight, loyalist gunmen wearing balaclavas burst into their Kerrsland Drive home in east Belfast and murdered him at the top of the stairs.

Cyril was not the intended target of the killers. They’d gone to the wrong house and murdered the 51 year-old retired teacher and keen artist.

Brother and sister were within two weeks of moving to a new home in Randalstown when the attack happened.

For Colette, life has never been the same: “I lost companionship. I lost help. I lost someone I could talk to about different things. It’s just not the life I should have been living.”

Like other innocent victims, Colette is hurt and angry over the failure to get the Victims’ Payment scheme off the ground.

She says: “I think it’s disgusting that people can’t get what they are entitled to get. All because someone who may have been involved in something wants it when he is probably a perpetrator.

And I think there’s no way you can say that a perpetrator can be a victim. They’re two different things.

“I don’t know how many years it is since they’ve been talking about this and nothing has happened. I can’t see it ever being fixed.

“I think it would be an acknowledgement of what happened to them should never have happened as well as obviously helping them financially in their day-to-day lives.”

Click here to view article

Newsletter Campaign 9: ‘Don’t rip up Victims’ Payment guidelines’

Our principles and moral compass are firmly fixed. We don’t seek to engage or involve ourselves in politics. All we seek is what is right for innocent victims of terrorism.

There is never a time when doing what is right can be watered down to accepting what is wrong. Going against our principles or breaking our moral compass is not something that is negotiable.

And here’s our dilemma. At Stormont, there is a push to try to redefine a victim in order to qualify for the Victims’ Payment Scheme that was approved in Westminster legislation. To the great annoyance, frustration and disgust of innocent victims, the disagreement around the Executive table is mean-spirited and vindictive.

Let us be clear. A gunman who committed murder is a perpetrator and deserves nothing under this scheme. A bomber who killed children and maimed passers-by in a street must be excluded. If a terrorist served more than 30 months in jail, they are disqualified.

If, for example, a partner, son or daughter of a convicted terrorist is injured in a terrorist act by ‘the other side’, then they should receive their financial entitlement and be treated no differently.

In all of this, we are guided by decency and what is right. The Secretary of State’s guidance makes it clear who should and shouldn’t qualify. To rip this up at this stage and begin a renegotiation would add insult to injury.

Writing in the ‘News Letter’ yesterday, Simon Hoare MP, Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, put it in succinct terms when he said ‘I expect (as do the cross party members of the House of Commons NI Select Committee) all parties to do all in their power to do right by victims immediately.’

From that comment, I think it fair to say that Westminster is aghast at the antics in our Executive. And who could blame MPs for feeling frustration and disbelief?

This brings it right back to doing what’s right. If one political party is holding up payments to innocent people because it wants to re-define victimhood, then we are hopelessly deadlocked. There is little or no likelihood of a successful resolution.

Once again, our long-suffering victims of terrorism are made to suffer, and that is totally unacceptable.

I would appeal to those who are presenting obstacles to the Victims’ Payment Scheme to search your souls and do what is morally right. Don’t re-traumatise people who live each day with their injuries and memories and whose lives have been blighted by the actions of terrorist armies.

If you can’t see the suffering you are causing by holding up this scheme, then our national Government has to step in to take control. That would be a dreadful state of affairs and cause severe damage to the reputation of the Stormont institutions.

Our Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis MP, cannot afford to let this issue fester much longer. He must take control and take decisive action to end what is clearly a scandal. Delaying in the vain hope that parties will negotiate a compromise when no compromise is possible will damage credibility and undermine integrity and justice.

It’s time to do what’s right!

Search the site