Some of the relatives of those who perished in the La Mon atrocity forty-two years ago gathered at a Commemoration at the Island Civic Centre in Lisburn on Monday.In a brief but moving ceremony, flowers were laid at the La Mon Commemorative Seat by Jim Mills whose wife, Carol, and sister, Sandra, perished in the inferno.The names of the twelve victims were read by the Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Johnny McCarthy, followed by two minutes silence.Inside the Council offices, Axel Schmidt, Advocacy Manager with Ulster Human Rights Watch, read from Scripture and led the group in prayers.Mr Schmidt said afterwards: “It is important that we remember the innocent lives that were lost to terrorism during the thirty years of the ’Troubles’. Twelve people were murdered at La Mon and their loved ones will never forget the horror or pain of that unspeakable act. We remembered the victims in this the forty second anniversary and to acknowledge the pain and anguish that is still felt today.”
Ulster Human Rights Watch, which campaigns for the innocent victims of terrorism, has welcomed new legislation establishing a long-overdue victims payments scheme.
The Lurgan-based Advocacy Service says it is particularly pleased with the exclusion from the scheme of terrorists who perpetrated monstrous acts of barbarity.
Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “This scheme is meant to deliver practical financial relief for innocent victims of the Troubles who have been physically or psychologically injured.
“Some of these people sustained appalling physical and psychological injuries in deplorable terrorist attacks. They deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.
“Victims of terrorism will have to apply and those who qualify may receive annual payments ranging from £2,000 to £10,000. Ulster Human Rights Watch is now urging victims to get in touch with the Advocacy Service so that they get all the help they need to prepare their application for payments. We can be contacted on 028 3834 4500 or by email to: email@example.com.
“It is clear that the Government heeded the voice of victims of terrorism in drawing up this scheme since it would have been a monstrous piece of legislation if bombers or gunmen had been included. This would only have served to re-traumatise the real victims of these cowardly acts of terrorism.
“We particularly welcome the decision by the Government to increase the number of injured people who will qualify in order to benefit spouses and carers who look after seriously injured individuals. However, the scope of the exclusion of perpetrators on the grounds of a relevant conviction or exceptional circumstances, which makes entitlement to victims’ payments inappropriate, remains unclear. Ulster Human Rights Watch will continue to pressurise the Government for clarity of this aspect of the scheme.
“For this reason we have to take at face value the assurance that only innocent victims will benefit. Ulster Human Rights Watch will be carefully monitoring the operation of the scheme to ensure that this commitment is fulfilled.”
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A human rights charity that campaigns on behalf of innocent victims of terrorism is seeking urgent clarification from the Government on proposed new legacy legislation.
Lurgan-based Ulster Human Rights Watch (UHRW) is worried that the legislation, to be introduced within 100 days, will ignore the voices of the victims and favour terrorists who carried out heinous crimes against them.
UHRW says the document, ‘New Decade, New Approach’, which was approved by all of the main parties and the two Governments, raises serious questions of fairness, integrity and transparency that must be addressed.
Ulster Human Rights Watch Advocacy Manager, Axel Schmidt, said: “It seems innocent victims of terrorism are once again pawns in this political game. The views of victims of terrorism that were submitted to the NIO by the Ulster Human Rights Watch during the consultation on addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland past do not seem to count. We now have an end point, and it is the 20th April, and we will be re-doubling our efforts to ensure victims of terrorism are not abandoned and discounted by legislation.
“These are people who have suffered enough and deserve better. They do not need to hear concessions to those who planted bombs and murdered their loved ones. They certainly do not need to be relegated in importance in order to placate some politicians or to keep them anchored to the restored devolved institutions.
“What is proposed in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) raises the greatest concerns for law abiding people and innocent victims. It has the potential to turn natural justice on its head. In effect, it provides equivalence between the terrorist and the police and military personnel who did everything to protect lives and property.
“The SHA proposes the creation of a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) which enables investigations for ‘non-criminal police misconduct’. That is where former or deceased police officers can be pilloried for making genuine mistakes. Just imagine the upset that that would cause the family of a decorated police officer?
“We have written to the Secretary of State Julian Smith MP requesting an urgent meeting to get clear (some) answers. The Government is now engaged in ‘an intensive process’ with the Northern Ireland parties and we would like certainty and transparency on what it has in mind. On the evidence so far, this process raises questions of fairness and integrity and given our legitimate and serious concerns, what is required for victims of terrorism to deal with the past cannot be ignored any longer.”