Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

Outstanding Legacy Issues affecting Victims and Relatives in Northern Ireland: Discussion

9:30 am

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Commission for Victims and Survivors and The Junction for sending their apologies for not attending the meeting. Unfortunately, the commission had a key event organised for today, while The Junction had other outstanding business to attend to that necessitated both to decline the invitation. However, they have both indicated that they would be very interested in coming before the joint committee and will submit a written brief on the subject of today's meeting to assist the committee in its deliberations. I thank them for such positive engagement.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice or ruling of the Chair to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by it to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Given the sensitivity of the issues to be discussed, I ask members and witnesses to take special note of what I have said.

On behalf of the committee, I am very pleased to welcome Ms Sandra Peake CEO, Wave Trauma Centre; Ms Maura Twohig, chairperson, Tara Centre; Ms Kate Turner, project director, Healing Through Remembering; and Mr. Ian Bothwell, director, Crossfire Trust. I understand Mr. Kenny Donaldson, spokesperson for Innocent Victims United, is running late and will be here in a few minutes. I welcome all of our guests to discuss the outstanding legacy issues affecting victims and relatives in Northern Ireland. I ask Ms Peake to make her opening statement. She will be followed by the other representatives in chronological order, as per the schedule circulated. Members can then ask questions.

Ms Sandra Peake:

I thank the Chairman and members of the joint committee for arranging this session on legacy issues affecting victims and relatives in Northern Ireland.

The Troubles have left an indelible imprint on many people within the community and the legacy issues are influenced by the way in which people were affected. In my very brief introduction I want to look at the bereaved and those who were severely injured. One third of WAVE’s new referrals in the past year were bereaved persons. Since 1991 WAVE has been working with those bereaved and injured in or traumatised by the Troubles, regardless of community background, religious or political beliefs. To give members a sense of those who present to WAVE, 17 years post the Good Friday Agreement, they are aged between seven and 93 years of age. Some 44.9% are male and 55.1%, female. The average age is 51; however, we work with people between the ages of seven and 93 years of age. The religious breakdown is fairly equal.

Over 80% clients were resident in the six most deprived decile areas in Northern Ireland. The incidents that prompted clients to come to WAVE happened over a broad timescale. The data for last year indicate that 23.1% of the people presenting were affected in the 1970s, 23.4% in 1980s, 28.6% in 1990s, 14.8% in 2000 and 10.2% in 2010. I wanted to give these statistics for a variety of reasons. Many people assume that the legacy of the Troubles has not left the imprint that it has. Many individuals are presenting for support and assistance today some 40 years after the incident or 17 years after the Good Friday Agreement. Many of them present with a range of difficulties from psychological, physical, financial, social and some come with a sense of a perceived lack of justice. While 91% of those killed were men, the figures for men coming forward for help have risen year on year and are now just under 50%, with the average age being 51. Many are coming from areas of high social deprivation and are most likely to be economically inactive. Transgenerational issues are evident, with children from the age of seven years up presenting to WAVE requiring support. WAVE serves all sections of the community without distinction.

For the bereaved, a variety of issues may be evident, including feeling forgotten and a sense that their loved one's death was in vain may often be evident. Some families and individuals are presenting with complex grief compounded by the circumstances of their loved one's death - for example, a family member of the disappeared or someone whose loved one has been labelled an informer. Others are clear in their pursuit of truth and justice. Even within families there can be differences in what members want to see happen. There can be differences within families as to how they want to see the legacy of the past addressed.

Since the Good Friday Agreement victims and survivors have seen many different processes. In 1998 Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, Northern Ireland’s first victims' commissioner, identified the need for a process to deal with the past. While aspects of his report were addressed, the issues around truth and justice were not. The historic enquiry team, HET, did some good work for some families but for others it was insufficient and the structure of HET and protocols were flawed. In 2009, the Bradley Eames report offered new potential and many victims and survivors engaged fully in the process. Sadly, however, this did not progress. The Haass O’Sullivan talks in 2013 sought engagement and consultation and Richard Haass, in a meeting with WAVE, noted that a large number of responses had come from those bereaved and injured. Sadly, victims and survivors again saw this process flounder. Just before the HET closed, we were told that a number of cases would be fast tracked and were in the top 10%. Two months later, the Chief Constable announced through the media that the HET would close. The handling of people and the support, care and respect shown to them has been difficult. People are getting older and the sad reality is that relatives have died who did not get the answers or information they wanted.

We want to see progress on the historic investigation unit, HIU, and on the independent commission for information recovery, ICIR. The Stormont House Agreement cannot be another failed attempt to deal with the past. Recognition and acknowledgement are crucial for victims and survivors who have been bereaved. We would argue that the bereaved should receive greater financial support through the Victims and Survivors Service that was set up to provide support. Sadly, year on year that support has been reduced which has caused difficulties for many of the bereaved.

In 2012 WAVE commissioned a research study to explore the specific needs of the injured and their families. Many injured people reported that their needs were practical and physical and included, for example, appropriate wheelchairs and limbs, appropriate housing conducive to meeting their needs and financial support to improve the quality of their lives. Out of this research study WAVE’s injured support group lobbied and proposed a special pension for those severely injured as part of a campaign for recognition. We must bear in mind that the injured have been overlooked in successive reports. They were overlooked in the Eames Bradley report and even in the Haass report. The HIU and the new structures that have been proposed do not have any structures in place to deal with the injured. The injured are only included if there was a fatality.

The pension proposal is included within the Stormont House Agreement and our group will continue to work to ensure that this is achieved. Many of the injured, particularly from the 1970s and early 1980s, have long exhausted compensation payments as they outlived their life expectancy. While there was disability discrimination throughout the Troubles, there was also Troubles discrimination in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and many struggled to find work. The pension under the Stormont House Agreement would be an important form of recognition and acknowledgement and would facilitate the injured in having some degree of financial security in the longer term.

Individuals differ and no single process will meet everybody’s needs. The most important aspect to all processes is that victims and survivors must be central. They must not be pushed to the margins or ignored but must be central to it. We have seen some progress and since we last met this committee in December 2013, three of the disappeared have been located through the work of the independent commission for the location of victims’ remains, ICLVR. The commission has worked well and that is uncontested. Everyone has the right to bury their dead and to afford a loved one a Christian burial. I would like to thank successive Irish and British Governments for their continued support for the commission. I would urge all members of this committee to continue to highlight the mechanisms that exist to give information to ICLVR so that the four remaining disappeared are returned to their families for Christian burial.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Thank you Ms Peake. I now call Sr. Twohig to make her opening statement.

Sr. Maura Twohig:

I would also like to thank the committee for the invitation to attend today's meeting and to be part of this important discussion. The Tara Centre is just down the street from WAVE and we are well aware of the tremendous work that WAVE has been doing. While Ms Peake and I did not prepare together in advance of this meeting, having listened to her I can see that my approach will complement hers. I grew up in Youghal in County Cork, far away from the Troubles of Northern Ireland. I had no intention of ever being in Northern Ireland but circumstances brought me there. I am now 21 years living there and I was invited at a very early stage to become part of the implementation of the peace process in Northern Ireland. This was just before the Good Friday Agreement was signed. My response to this was to be a co-founder, with Mary Daly who is in the Gallery, of the Tara Centre, which was set up in the interests of healing, peace and holistic well-being on a cross-community, cross-Border basis. The centre is now in its 20th year of operation. I want to gratefully acknowledge the funding we have received from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and from the Northern Ireland Office and also the part played by this committee in approving that funding which has helped us enormously. Over the years, as a stand-alone organisation, we have had to find and dispense £12 million in the development of our centre and in the provision of services across the community. We very much appreciate the help we have received, including from Members of this House.

As an educationalist and a qualified and practising psychotherapist, I wish to take an in-depth look at areas to which Ms Peake referred with facts and figures which we have recorded and published. One of the issues that struck me in the early days of setting up and developing the centre and while working there as a practitioner over the years is the need to take a very broad perspective in dealing with emotive issues. We talk about the Troubles, and in the North it is the immediate Troubles, but as someone who has lived there for just 21 years - I will not say for how many decades in the rest of the country and abroad - I see that the roots of the Troubles are very deep. They go back many, many centuries and we need to keep that in mind. That colours everything we do. It does not take from the immediacy but it gives a depth and lets us know that we must be there for the long haul.

The name of the centre is the Tara Centre. Michael Slevin, who is an authority on Tara, County Meath, tells us that "Tara" means a place from which there is a broad perspective.

Interestingly, we took that title and as we got into it a little more we discovered that Tara has many connotations and associations spanning many countries, cultures and continents, including the Buddhist Green Tara, the goddess of healing and compassion, with the same connotation applying in Ethiopia. I am not avoiding anything. As a psychotherapist and human being, I know that the healing of the emotions, the psyche and the soul is necessary if we are to endure. It is what will bring us together as a people. When we are trying to set up organisations, we need funding and support but more than anything else, we need to respect each others perspective and to acknowledge that the core truth of all of us as human beings is that we come from the same source. Until we reach a deep awareness of this, in terms of how we live, the bickering, fighting and contesting about not having enough will continue. The dispensation of creation is that there is more than enough for everyone. Its the psyche, the mindset, that sets us off our target. This is what I mean by "a broad perspective".

It is most interesting that in concrete terms, the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements, such as the St. Andrews Agreement, the Hillsborough Agreement and, the more recent, Stormont House Agreement, take broad perspectives in their approach to this healing. They quantify it as cultural, political and social. Currently, there is much focus on the decade of commemorations across the island of Ireland. That is the breadth we need. I love it. It gives me energy.

Looking concretely at this issue in the Tara Centre, we developed a multidisciplinary package of initiatives which could be offered for the purpose of healing the effects of the legacy of the Troubles. None of us dares to believe we can heal or help another. We cannot heal or fix another person but we can support, help and encourage. However, if we dare to cross the threshold and think we can do it for them, we have lost it. Everyone can do that for themselves. All they need to do so is respect, recognition and support. The package we put together includes counselling psychotherapy and art therapy, a range of complementary therapies, training programmes, workshops, residentials, field trips and support groups. Those affected by suicide and bereavement of other types and the injured will participate but they will select a particular point of entry. They may start with psychotherapy and then move to a training programme. We also refer them outside as well as inside. In other words, we support them in taking responsibility for their own lives and healing but we are there for them.

What has emerged over time is experiential evidence of a widely proclaimed theory that there is a profound transgenerational dimension to be reckoned with in the lasting healing of all deep trauma at the personal, family, community and broader societal levels. In terms of my personal awareness, I grew up in Cork and I am of the generation post the 1916 Rising, the subsequent Civil War, the setting up of the Border, development of the Free State and the evolvement of the Republic of Ireland. Although I was born in Youghal, my parents came from west Cork, Michael Collins country. As parents, they made the responsible decision to try to protect their family from the trauma. I see parents in the North trying to do that now. It is an interesting echo. My parents tried to protect us. I was educated and I travelled abroad and trained as a educationalist. I went to the USA and Europe and had a lot of opportunities. What I found was that all of the efforts of the previous generation to protect my generation from the effects of the trauma of that appalling violence were in vain. I then realised that the Swiss psychotherapist C. G. Jung knew what he was saying when he said: “What one generation seeks to forget, another generation is forced to remember." There is immediacy in the North at the moment. There is immediacy across the Border and in the work of these islands in coming together but we must keep the broad perspective and the depth in mind if we are going to be effective in the long term.

When in the United States, I trained in psychotherapy at university level at the Presbyterian-run counselling centre in downtown Chicago. I worked hard. I had to do personal counselling and to do so rigorously week on week, following which I thought I had all my demons surfaced and was ready to be a counsellor. I was posted to Portadown, Northern Ireland, from where I commuted up and down to Belfast. I realised then that all of the transgenerational effects of trauma that my good parents and their generation tried to protect me from were alive and well and living in me and along the streets of Belfast. I had to take time to do further work to heal. I knew that if I could not heal myself, I could not dare to stay in the north of Ireland and attempt to try to be part of the peace building. I did the work and I thought I was very smart. I then moved from Portadown to Omagh which seemed to be a quiet place where I could do some work and not be ruffled too much.

We opened our centre in 1996. We were doing nicely. We were overwhelmed straight away with applications from all sectors of society. In August 1998, barely five months after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the worst atrocity of Northern Ireland happened a few hundreds up the street from our centre. It was the Omagh bombing. I was so frightened I did not want to visit the site of the tragedy that night but I was reminded by the people around me that it was my duty to do so and so I did. I could not believe it. The mother of one of the young victims blown to bits called me across the hall and asked me to accompany her and her family to identify her son in the morgue. I went with her and identified the young man. I saw that woman put her hand under the blankets and take it out again covered with blood. That taught me the appallingness of the depth of the pain that people have to suffer. There is no such thing as a backdrop in the Northern Ireland situation. Sometimes I find - I do not begrudge anything to anyone - that there are awful hot-spots in Belfast, Derry and other Border regions. It is everywhere. In my practice as a practising psychotherapist I meet it daily in the lives of the clients who come to the centre. What is most interesting is that most of the time, they do not know why they have come to the centre. We provide long-term counselling. We will treat people for as long as it takes, as long as real work is being done. Once trust and confidence has been built up between the client and therapist the deeper layers, similar to the ones I thought I had buried, begin to surface, following which the real healing happens. It is long-term work that requires patience and respect, the best of which cannot be shared.

I would like to tell the committee about a lady who came to see me after the Omagh bombing. She had been caught up in the incident and as she was a nurse, she had helped people at the scene. I was ready to deal with her trauma but what surfaced was that when a student nurse in Belfast many years earlier and on duty in the Royal Victoria Hospital, masked men came to the hospital and asked her at gunpoint to bring them to the bed of a particular named patient. She could not do it.

They frog-marched her and shot him dead in front of her. She was only ready to deal with what had happened on that day 18 years later. That is what I mean by "the depth". In the relative tranquillity of these days - it is funny because these days it is anything but stable - these matters come gradually, namely, two steps forward, one step back. There is a relative tranquillity in society and that is the environment in which people can begin to feel secure and safe enough and in which the deeply buried trauma will surface from the subconscious. I am talking about the micro level on the ground. All the organisations must remain for them. We must be very supportive, even if we have to be critical for integrity, of the genuine efforts being made at the political level every day on this issue. Essentially, there must be a broad perspective. The approach must be in-depth, transgenerational and for the long haul. The macro and the micro must be let support each other, as we have been trying to do. We need to be hugely appreciative of everything people are doing. When we have to be critical, we must be. We have to stand up and be counted. I will never be found wanting in that regard. It is important not to go down the negative road.

I am most grateful to the committee for giving me the opportunity to put my story across. My story is just a tiny piece in the midst of all of the others told.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank Sr. Maura Twohig. I call on Mr. Donaldson, Innocent Victims United, to make his opening statement.

Mr. Kenny Donaldson:

First, I extend my apologies for my lateness. I am sorry I missed Ms Peake’s introduction and part of Sr. Maura Twohig’s. It is a pleasure to attend the joint committee.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I understand there was an accident on the M1.

Mr. Kenny Donaldson:

No, I had a flat tyre outside Drogheda - even on your good roads.

I am representing Innocent Victims United, IVU, an umbrella organisation for 23 groups across Northern Ireland, the Republic and Great Britain which have a collective membership in excess of 11,500 individual victims and survivors. The organisation was formed in 2012 to act as a cohesive voice for these individuals and to bring together some thoughts on policy which had been lacking heretofore. The organisation’s status is voluntary. It does not receive funding; nor does it wish to receive it. The organisation has a very clear position on terrorism and violence. It stands on the solid legal and moral foundation that in the context of Northern Ireland there was not and is not a justification for the taking of life in either the advancement of or the defence of a political objective. IVU is non-sectarian and non-political, with representation from across the spectrum.

In the talks processes heretofore the terminology dealing with the past has been difficult in itself. It is society’s terminology, the terminology of those who do not want to remember and those who wish to move the situation on without dealing with the issues. Dealing with the past is dealing with the present in terms of victims’ and survivors’ issues because they are real and live and will be today and tomorrow. Everyone else needs to remember this.

"Dealing with the past" is offensive language for victims and survivors. IVU believes innocent victims and survivors of terrorism have been used as collateral damage for many years. In 1998 there was a peace agreement which brought about the Belfast Agreement. For all its pros and cons, at that point at least, a referendum was held and the people decided they wished to go with that approach.

Part of the Agreement in 1998 was the release of prisoners, when the gates were opened. Society understood they were released as terrorists on licence. If we were to think then that 17 years later that these individuals would now be considered in law as victims in the same way as those for whom they were incarcerated, we would have been told we were away in the head. That is what has happened in this society. I am conscious, however, of what Sr. Maura Twohig said about not getting into negativities. If that is what comes across from this, I am sorry, but a reality check is also needed. We need to recalibrate society because it has gone too far. A pause button needs to be used and we need to start to examine how the peace and political processes have been rolled out in the past 17 years by two national Governments.

It is our belief the definition of “victim” is at the root and heart of the difficulties in seeking resolutions of victim issues, a point that needs to be considered. In 2006, when the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 dealing with this matter was introduced in Westminster, not a single individual in Northern Ireland had a view on it. Victims and survivors certainly did not, nor did the local political parties. It was ushered through Westminster in 24 hours. We have argued for a long time that there needs to be a referendum held on this issue. IVU has engaged with the main church leaders, political parties, the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Orange Order and a plethora of other organisations. We want a debate on this issue to have the matter resolved once and for all.

We recognise that people who came from terrorist backgrounds and their families have suffered. If one loses a loved one, be they a member of a terrorist organisation or otherwise, the loss is the same. The point is that providing services and a legal equation for those individuals is not right. There are health-based and welfare services. For the citizens of any nation, there is an entitlement to be in receipt of these. However, we have to be conscious of what message we have sent when all are considered to be victims.

We are in Dublin today and I would not miss the opportunity to bring the following issues to the fore because we have been working on them for some time. It is the belief of those based in borderland areas that the Republic of Ireland, the State and its Administration, have issues to answer for over the course of the Troubles. We have been engaged on this isue for some three to four years. We have met the Taoiseach and other senior policy people on the need for a formal acknowledgment of failures on the part of the State during the years of the Troubles. I am talking explicitly about security and extradition policies. There needs to be a formal acknowledgment of the arms crisis of 1970, the formation of the IRA, the financing, training and the procuring of weaponry. These issues have not been dealt with satisfactorily, neither have failures in terms of extradition polices at judicial level which led to shoot and scoot or hit and run killings across the Border. The area in which I am based and work is south Fermanagh. The statistics are available and there is no need to exaggerate or embellish them. In south-east Fermanagh, in five small wards, 42 lives were lost during the Troubles. Of these, 38 were murders committed by the Provisional IRA, PIRA. Two innocent Roman Catholic civilians were stabbed to death by soldiers of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment. Two IRA members died, as they term it, on active service. Where was the conflict in south Fermanagh? There was no conflict. It was one-way traffic. There are other parts of the country where that also was the case. Whenever we talk about the language used of it being a conflict in Northern Ireland, it must be remembered the situation in these Border areas was very different.

We also feel there needs to be recognition of the ethnic cleansing of areas. This term is not liked by some as it was used in the Balkans. However, in reality, that is what happened in areas of Fermanagh, Tyrone and south Armagh. It might have been on a much lesser scale, but it happened. For the individuals involved, there has never been redress.

To coin the comments of one individual, a part-time UDR soldier who had been shot up twice on his farm and forced to leave with three young children, "The IRA did not take my life but they took my way of life", because having come from a farming family of 11 generations, overnight he became a townie. I say that with the greatest of respect to those members who live in a town centre or city environment. However, he had no choice and became a city boy overnight.

I will move to the area of reparations and, obviously, the issue of a pension for the injured, which had been part of the Stormont House discussions, is foremost in discussions at present. Ms Sandra Peake and her organisation have done sterling work over the years in bringing this issue to the fore. This issue again is a symptom of why we have got it wrong in respect of victims policy because they are being asked two questions on this particular matter. First, they are asked whether they would benefit from receiving a pension, whether it would benefit their lives and whether it would make things easier. The answer given, of course, is "Yes". The second question they are asked is whether they will accept this pension if ten individuals, six loyalist and four republican who have themselves been seriously injured while carrying out acts of terror, also receive it. Why should a victim survivor be asked that question? Again, it is a negation of government not to deal with that matter properly, and 390 people have been prevented from receiving much-needed support. We have raised this in recent weeks and, believe it or not, the actual item they need more than anything else, which everyone around this table would take for granted, is oil. This is because with the physical injuries they have endured, for pain relief purposes oil is an absolute necessity, that is, having it on full-time and making sure that keeps their pain at bay. Is it not ironic that while those individuals require oil, there are criminal empires across this island comprising those who have made wealth on the back of oil? These individuals have the oil while victims need oil.

As for reparations, it is not only about finance but also about acknowledgement and accountability, and other sectors of people must also be considered after the discussions that will take place concerning the seriously injured. Obviously, these are the immediately bereaved, the next of kin, who in many instances received extremely poor compensation at the time when their loved ones were murdered and who often were obliged to bring up children in one-parent families and who I must say made a fantastic job of it in the main. These people are the heroes in this society. As for those displaced and ethnically cleansed to whom I already referred, farms lie in rack and ruin and houses are dilapidated and falling apart. Again, where was the help for those individuals? It did not come. I acknowledge this is slightly outside members' brief, but where there is potential for the joint committee, I urge it to make representations on behalf of those who are victims of Gadaffi terrorism or para-terrorism. That matter still has not been resolved for those citizens who have been affected in that way and who, unlike those in other nations of the world, have not been compensated. Again, I ask the committee to please take an interest in that matter.

Another issue that is greatly to our heart and hopefully to that of the committee is equitable services for victims and survivors or, as we dub it, "end the postcode discrimination". We have strong links with victims and survivors based in the Republic of Ireland as well as in Great Britain. At present, the Victims and Survivors Service operates services on behalf of individual victims and survivors. However, if one was injured in an atrocity in the Republic of Ireland, be it the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, Belturbet or elsewhere, at present one has no gateway ability to receive support via those schemes. The criterion used for the support for the injured scheme is to be in receipt of the high-level or middle rate disability living allowance, DLA, and that is one's passport to receive support. There is no comparable benefit in the Republic of Ireland which is recognised as such for people to receive that support. We have written to the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection and other senior politicians on this matter but, again, it has not yet been resolved. Consequently, in looking after their own citizens on this side of the Border, members of the joint committee should make that a matter of urgency because at present they are not being catered for and that is not right. I do not like to do this but bringing that down to financial terms, it means that were someone in receipt of high-rate DLA care component for a serious injury, £1,500 worth of support could go to that individual. Such people then automatically have a passport for £820 of financial assistance, as well as £500 for their carers who would be assisting them. That is £2,820 that could go into a family household annually and, at present, citizens in this jurisdiction are denied that.

As I am conscious my time may be drawing to a close, I will mention in bullet-point format other areas on which we wish to touch. We are clear there must not be and should not be any amnesty for terrorists or the expunging of records. Moreover, in our view a truth commission and the independent commission on information retrieval, ICIR, which is contained within the Stormont House proposals, will deliver little for victims of terrorism. We also make the point that while we call it the Stormont House Agreement, how can it be an agreement when only two of those five political parties which comprised the then Executive have ratified those proposals within their own party structures? Moreover, one of those two parties has since reneged in terms of welfare reform. Consequently, the smallest political party in the Executive, namely, the Alliance Party, is the only party that has ratified the proposals but yet they are advancing apace. Does that not seem strange? We wish to bring to the fore that this agreement, as it has been dubbed, was done in spite of victims and survivors. In the case of the Haass proposals, for all their flaws there was an open door ability to lobby and to speak to politicians and political parties in the run-up to those discussions. Stormont House was a closed doors affair and this was for a reason. The difference between the widths of the document for Stormont House and the document for the Haass proposals, where almost too much of a hand was shown, would tell one something.

The other area about which I wish to speak briefly today is the proposed historical investigations unit, which is contained within that document, and obviously there are issues pertaining to disclosure. We have raised this a number of times and our concern is there is a different level of disclosure commitment by the UK Government and by the Republic of Ireland Administration. The UK Government has committed to full disclosure, the ROI State has committed to disclosure with co-operation. These two are very different and we have taken legal advice on this and have been advised that there is a marked difference. At this stage, I should make the point there almost has been a test case in this regard to try, if one likes, to win the contentment and support of the community from which I come, namely, Kingsmills. We saw the foot dragging that has existed over Kingsmills in terms of the provision of information. Latterly, 90 pages of documentation have been produced of which 60 to 62 pages were newspaper reports. Consequently we ask whether there really is real commitment from this side of the Border to deal with these issues. We make this point plainly. I may be a citizen of the United Kingdom, but neither State is clean on this problem we have in this place. The ROI State needs to get its head out of the sand and deal with those matters also.

We also ask members to factor into their thinking in the future the issue of the retraumatisation of victims and survivors through the glorification of terrorism. Again, we make the point that when individual members of one's family lose their lives, regardless of whoever they were or of whatever organisation they were part, one will grieve for them and will honour them in one's own private way. As for these public showings of terrorism idolatry, however, what are they doing for this society? I refer to six, seven or eight year old children being brought to these events and being told these are, somehow, martyrs and heroes. The people who did not take to the gun or the bomb are the heroes within this society and we need to remember that.

Innocent Victims United asks that the Governments responsible for stewardship of the peace and political processes recommit themselves to the principles of justice, truth and accountability and that they will, without fear or favour, support the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism and other Troubles related violence in their quest to obtain answers. Society must be embedded with a mindset about when one neighbour wrongs another, and this is because we did not do it to strangers. We were neighbours together. The point is, if one comes from a Nationalist-republican perspective, one believes all people living on this island are Irish and if one comes from a British perspective and one lives in Northern Ireland, then one considers all one's neighbours to be British and, therefore, one actually murdered one's neighbours.

That is what happened here: people murdered their neighbours, not strangers. We feel society must adopt the mindset that when one neighbour wrongs another that they are required to engage in a process of three Rs: demonstrate remorse, show repentance and engage in restitutive acts. Maybe once these processes have been worked through we can get to individual and societal reconciliation, and not the phony reconciliation we have currently.

Ms Kate Turner:

I too thank the committee for the opportunity to speak and welcome its consideration of these important but difficult issues. As an organisation which has been looking at legacy issues relating to the conflict for over 15 years, we are often credited with initiating the debate on them. However, we only developed this work because that was what people were responding to and asking for, across a range of groups and backgrounds, back in 1999 and 2000. We realised that when offered a safe space and freedom from external control, people wanted to discuss the legacy of the conflict. That debate focussed on what we needed to do for victims and survivors, for society and in order to be able to work together.

In 2002 Healing Through Remembering, HTR, carried out a public consultation asking, “How should we remember the conflict in and about Northern Ireland and in so doing help individuals and society to be healed?” As a result of the response to this consultation we focussed our work in five particular areas of dealing with the past, namely, commemoration; day of reflection; living memorial museum, storytelling or personal narrative; truth recovery and acknowledgement.

HTR is a membership-led organisation. The membership includes people who describe themselves as victims or survivors, ex-combatants, former members of the security forces, clergy, academics, community workers, politicians and housewives. These members decide on the activities the organisation undertakes in consideration of these areas of concern. Over the last 12 years we have held hundreds of facilitated workshops and discussion meetings; a number of conferences with local and international input; both open and private conversations on difficult aspects of dealing with the past; and a range of local and international study visits. We have produced over 30 discussion documents; a dozen short films; a drama; pop-up street theatre; walking tours; and an exhibition of everyday objects transformed by the conflict, which was initially travelling and later static.

Key to all HTR's work is not answers to these difficult questions. What right do we as a group, albeit of diverse backgrounds and committed to the issues, have to come up with definitive answers? Rather, the emphasis has been on enabling robust conversations, considering possibilities and developing principles to guide discussions and work in these areas. In particular we have produced “Ethical Principles for Storytelling and Personal Narrative”, “Core Principles for Dealing with the Past” and “Are we there yet?”, which includes benefits and challenges for each of our key areas of work which we feel need to be addressed. Copies of each of those documents are available for all members. I sound like somebody else - "One for everyone in the audience".

The outstanding legacy issues are that we need to find better ways of meeting the needs of those who have suffered most in, and since, the conflict. We can never offer them justice, closure or complete well-being. How could we ever achieve that after what people have suffered? However, we can, and should, do a lot more to address their particular needs. We also need to recognise that their needs and concerns may change over time, over generations, or as they gain or learn more from existing processes. There is also an outstanding issue of what we as a society need to understand and learn from the conflict, which is hampered by the historic issues of lack of trust, suspicion and lack of engagement. In order to do our best to ensure "never again", we need to find ways as a society to better deal with our conflictual past.

The success of HTR shows what is possible in this difficult area. We are proof that people of different opinions, political viewpoints and backgrounds relating to the conflict can work together and find ways to build a better future even while still disagreeing on the past.

Mr. Ian Bothwell:

I thank the committee for the opportunity to be here. I am aware of a very pressing need myself - I have drunk three glasses of water and now need the bathroom - so I will be brief. My wife and I are delighted to be invited and included. Being included in this is very important because there are people isolated in our community whose voices need to be heard. BBC used to say it is good to talk, but we have yet to tell our story and people have yet to be heard. I feel the nervousness of this debate because we have to get this right. It is important to get the past right so that we can go forward. It is important to clean out the wound and to have the confidence that we can do this. I feel we can.

I had a lovely journey coming down by bus from Monaghan. Half the people who got off that 50-seater or 60-seater bus spoke to the driver by name and thanked him. He was called Seán. There are good people in this land. We are kind and given to hospitality, yet we have to address it to this area of wounds and healing. We need to open up ourselves to a new thought pattern and a sense of commitment to this.

Crossfire Trust was formed from a television programme in the Border town of Crossmaglen. I saw the bullet holes and the fear and decided to ask God to send someone there to heal and help. It turned out to be me. I was 21, inexperienced, came from Tynan, the only son of a Border farmer. I made that journey to Crossmaglen over many political, cultural and religious backgrounds with a wee burning song in my heart that I was taught in Sunday school: "Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in God's sight". That is our rock. It is a new type of equality. That is where we are coming from. We now have hospitality at Darkley House. We care for people who are homeless. Many of them are victims of the Troubles. We practise respite, support and events and bring people together, across communities, across nations, England to Ireland. We are on a journey and we are comfortable with our neighbours. Our membership is loose.

People are welcome. We struggle with the victim service, which wants us to sign people in at the door and ask them how they became victims. We like to welcome people from the south Armagh area who went through so much. Church members from Darkley were silent for many years, but after 30 years they revisited the events of November 1983, when three elders died. There are people in the RUC and the British army who come back to south Armagh to retrace their steps because of stress and panic. The local community in Crossmaglen has been very accommodating in taking widows and servicemen's girlfriends out to those country roads. There has been a sensitive journey quietly going on. The Good Friday Agreement, in my opinion, is still the best model we have. We have had the Eames Bradley report and the historical enquiries team and very public expensive inquiries, but I would like to see an alternative, and I have a suggestion which I will propose to the committee later.

At the moment there is a community exhaustion. People are tired of talking. Our politicians and some people in society have become very good at this, fascinated by the past but confused about the future. Victims and survivors have been told so often, "Tell your story; we are listening." Needs analysis, consultations, programmes, feedback sessions - of this there has been much, but there has been so little help on the ground, and that needs to change.

At the moment there is great political suspicion as to why, at a cost to our personal peace, some people are moving centre stage in front of cameras to position their parties better for the next election. I hope this is remembered at the next election. Knowing how we have voted in the past, I suspect we might continue to vote that way, because this giant is hard to shift, but we do need a change. Political parties are polarised, but there are different shades of green in south Armagh. I do not come from a republican background, but it concerns me that the republican community is so split. Some people might find it strange that I am concerned that a political party cannot stay together to deliver and roll out peace to the grassroots. When I walk around Crossmaglen I see poor housing and a deteriorating situation. During the Troubles there was always a place that someone could go to for help, but now, people who have been involved in incidents the past are abandoned. We are not kind to each other. In south Armagh we also have those involved in the emerging diesel laundering industry causing conflict and jealousy with large houses, private gardens and electric gates. It causes division.

I have two simple suggestions which I think are profound. I would like to see a volunteer legal team operate a fast-track investigation process for victims and survivors of past atrocities. I believe it is offensive that so much money has been spent making lawyers millionaires while widows are left alone to push a wheelie bin out to their road gate. There are people who struggle to get their grass cut while others have made money out of this. I would love to see bishops, church leaders, company heads, politicians and those with links to the President and the Queen organise a group of people who would volunteer their services to investigate speedily the events of the past.

Some of the people I know want more than an acknowledgement; they want a court conviction and someone sent to prison. They are convinced that this will help them, but I still have questions about that, because even ten years in a prison may not be sufficient to atone for the loss of a husband. But it would be more than an acknowledgment; it would be a recognition of what those victims have asked for. Some want their day in court, while others I work with are happier to move on and draw a line under the process. It seems contradictory, but it is something we could look at to offer an acknowledgement of the loss and pain of the event. Some victims in south Armagh have been pleased to have the acknowledgement each year of a public event, although is kept private, with no media or cameras. It is a recognition that they have had a loss and are on a journey, and they are encouraged to keep going.

We could have more community-based discussion events, the openness of which would allow neighbour to talk to neighbour. People have a desire to talk, but maybe the political climate and openness are not there to allow neighbours to talk. In a community dialogue, more information from the past could come forward which would settle many issues. I would like to see victims choose a personally identified group which would suit their needs to explore letting go, forgiveness, the rebuilding of trust and the restoration of relationships. That is quite a sentence, but we have not yet turned the key on forgiveness. I believe that people do not yet know how to do that. There is a feeling that it is letting others off the hook - but forgiveness lets you have a good night’s sleep.

We need to build trust and restore relationships that have been broken. In order to achieve this, I would like to see churches become more involved, publicly recognising local anniversaries, praying for victims by name and offering appropriate support for that week or month. If this were done nationwide it would create a new sense of inclusion and fresh hope. The use of poetry or hymnody could calm the deep parts and lead people out from the darkness of grief into the openness of trust. "Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come." If we were to continue to quote or to sing it would lead us on to a better place. It is acknowledging the pain of the past while not settling there but maintaining the journey to a better place.

I would love to see the media being used to tell the story without spin. Our politicians seem to love the cameras, but at what price? We are losing ground in the community while some of our politicians play games, and I have a growing resentment about that. The media needs to tell the good news of people’s journeys and celebrate the achievement. Reconciliation and reconcilers need to be honoured and appreciated more. The journey that victims and survivors can take together in addressing this is amazing. With everyone on board, we can travel to a better place. I have a deep-rooted feeling that we can do it together. Thank you.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank Ian, Sandra, Maura, Kenny and Kate for their informative, powerful, emotive, courageous and thoughtful submissions.

Certainly it is providing great information for us. Before I invite my colleagues to pose questions, I am conscious the purpose of this meeting is not for politicians but to hear the stories from all the various groups across Northern Ireland and across the island of Ireland. I am not going to be flexible on this occasion. I ask for a short brief comment followed by a question. I will allow each politician two minutes to ask his or her question. I will take three questions at a time. When I indicate after two minutes, I want the member to stop. Who will be first to ask a question?

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Chairman and welcome all the contributors and thank them for their effective and, obviously, heartfelt comments. I wish to make one or two comments. Ms Sandra Peake said that even basic requirements of individuals who have been victims and have gone through terrible trauma, such as housing and adaptation of housing, have not been dealt with. All of us sitting in this room know about the reconciliation, dealing with the present and the past, but we want to deal with the reality, the concerns, and the sufferings of people and the genuine grievances of individuals. Surely, in society and local administration, be it the Northern Ireland Assembly or the British Government, there has been a huge failure if smaller things which are major issues to the individuals concerned, such as basic housing, basic comforts and basic health services, have not been provided for people who have gone through so much trauma. Surely those issues could be dealt with in a meaningful way, apart from the bigger picture of how we resolve and make further progress on the reconciliation. There is absolutely no excuse for administration, be it local authorities, the Northern Ireland Assembly or Westminster, not having in place robust and positive programmes to deal with people's everyday needs in education, social services, health and housing. Those issues should be moved forward rapidly, not left on the back burner for the bigger issues to be dealt with that, unfortunately, will take time to resolve.

Mr. Kenny Donaldson made a suggestion of a public referendum on the definition of a victim. We have it in our Constitution, which was enacted by the people in 1937, that sovereignty resides in the people in our State and questions on major issues which require the law to be changed sometimes have to be put before the people. We have had referenda on major issues, the last being in May on the marriage equality issue. Prior to that, quite a number of our referenda were on European Union issues. By and large, the Government of the day and the Oireachtas - the Dáil and the Seanad - have to vote through a proposal that is then put before the people. In a referendum the people answer either "Yes" or "No" to a particular question. We have had the experience of the debate in advance of referenda being about everything except the question that was before the people. We had it with both the referenda on the Nice and Lisbon treaties where it was stated that people would be conscripted into European armies that did not exist, where some said we would have to give up our neutrality, and where others said we would have to hand over our taxation laws to the European Union, all things that could not be done unless our own people acceded to them because unanimity was required in the European Union. Those issues that were not relevant to the referendum dominated the debate. It would be a very difficult debate on the issue mentioned as one would first have to get political unanimity from whoever. I do not know if the Northern Executive has the authority to put a referendum question to the electorate. That is not straightforward.

A powerful statement made by Mr. Ian Bothwell, which gives us much food for thought, is that people have yet to be heard. We need to get rid of the "yet" out of that sentence.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the witnesses for appearing before the committee and telling us their stories and the stories of the people with whom they are dealing. I am on the all-party consultation group on the decade of commemorations which is dealing with an event that happened 100 years ago. A statement made by the grandson of Éamon De Valera said there is not a hierarchy of victims. People might believe there is a hierarchy of causes but there is not a hierarchy of victims because the suffering of their families is equally traumatic to them, no matter what the circumstances of how their loved one died. It is amazing to hear how the practicalities of the families and the suffering of those who survived atrocities goes on. The practicalities of simple things, such as assistance in regard to housing adaptation grants, mean that the suffering continues daily. As Mr. Ian Bothwell said, we have not yet heard from the victims and the families because of the political situation in the North.

The most appalling event of the past century was the extermination of the Jews in Auschwitz. There were 3,000 security personnel, SS officers, in Auschwitz at any one time, yet after Nuremberg only 80 of those ever appeared before a court, not because they could not be found but because of the political situation in Europe afterwards. We now see a replication in the North of what happened in the aftermath of the Second World War. The political situation in Westminster, here and in the North is stopping justice for the victims and the families of those who have suffered in the North. Justice delayed is justice denied. We do not want a situation where the people with whom the witnesses are dealing not only do not receive justice but also do not receive the practical help that Mr. Kenny Donaldson mentioned in respect of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings but which applies on all sides. If this situation occurs, that means the healing Sr. Maura Twohig spoke about for a nurse, who is dealing with an issue that happened 18 years previously, just does not come. She was lucky to receive the help of the witnesses but there are thousands of others who have not. I thank the witnesses for their statements.

Photo of Seán ConlanSeán Conlan (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the witnesses. I was struck by a couple of comments made by Mr. Kenny Donaldson and Mr. Ian Bothwell in respect of issues around the Border. I am from Monaghan. I will ask a question rather than make a statement. What more can be done in terms of dialogue between people in south Fermanagh, Monaghan, south Armagh and Tyrone to give the general community a better sense of what happened to those communities? Many of the younger generation in our area would not be aware of exactly what went on and would not have an empathy with or understanding of what went on. What concrete steps could be taken to have public sessions in Monaghan and in other Border areas to explain what happened to give them a better understanding in order that people would have a greater empathy with each other and we could get over the problems of the past and move forward together. In our own area, in terms of cross-community relationships, the position has improved immensely and things are quite good at the moment. At a cross-Border level what concrete steps can we take to improve the situation and make things better in the future? I was struck by what Mr. Kenny Donaldson said in regard to the lack of support for victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, Belturbet bombings and various bombings in the South in terms of accessing services and State support to deal with what happened to them.

Photo of Martin FerrisMartin Ferris (Kerry North-West Limerick, Sinn Fein)
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I thank the witnesses for their presentations. I was struck by what Sr. Maura Twohig said about her parents protecting her from the past and how it was still in her subconscious and at some stage it emerged.

That brings us back to a description of victims: victims of the state, victims of conflict, victims of discrimination and victims of sectarianism. I was 18 years old in 1970. I can forever see tens of thousands of people marching on the streets of the Six Counties - marching for the right to vote and the right to have a home. They are also victims of state discrimination, and that must be acknowledged. Somebody commented earlier about recognising and acknowledging the fact that they are victims and survivors. Everyone has been affected by the conflict or by the pre-conflict or post-conflict situation. They are also victims and must be looked at in that light. It is about trying to find a mechanism or a way of dealing with it. I come from a Sinn Féin background and I look at it as a matter of truth and reconciliation whereby people can be open and honest and deal with the past. If we cannot deal with the past and what happened, it clouds our way forward. We need to find a way to deal with that. We are living in a period in which there is huge conflict all over the world, particularly in the Middle East. It is conflict for which the big powers have direct responsibility, and they continue to have responsibility for propagating and promoting it. The question is how ordinary people in our country can find a way to heal. The only way one will heal is by dealing with the past in the present. The word "forgiveness" was mentioned, and it is absolutely correct. If one has no forgiveness and one has hatred in one's heart, one will never find forgiveness. As such, a way must be found to overcome that also. It is truth and reconciliation with everyone buying in, including governments, combatants and the organisations involved in the conflict. It is about the root causes of the conflict and about buying in honestly and openly to healing oneself by healing others. When we are all trying to find a way forward, using terminology that is associated with the demonisation of people in the past is not the way to deal with our difficulties or to heal. I am on the record as having said that the peace process is irreversible. There are and will continue to be difficulties because we are coming from a legacy of discrimination, sectarianism, hatred and violence, and we must deal with all of that. The way to do so is to recognise that each and every one of us comes from a particular position and to acknowledge the hurt inflicted by one tradition on another tradition. If one does not approach it openly and honestly in that way, one is destroying one's self.

Ms Sandra Peake:

I will go back to Deputy Smith's question and the issue of practical needs. To give an example, I worked this week with people who were injured and who had very old artificial limbs. I nursed in the Royal Victoria Hospital in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1970s, we had many people who had amputations following bombings or shootings. As surgery and technology progressed, more people in the 1990s were paralysed. People are dealing with limbs that should have been upgraded some time ago, resulting in chronic pain and its associated difficulties. Part of the difficulty with our health service has been that some of those people had not been reviewed for a long period and there is no assistance for those who may need more specialised wheelchairs to lift them, for example, to a certain kitchen cupboard height so that they can have full independence. We are pushing at the victims' and survivors' service to reinstate mechanisms to support people so that they can have the very best equipment to meet their needs and to allow them to remain independent and secure. Injured people's fears are about ending up in nursing care and being unable to live independently. It is a particular concern.

The other issue Mr. Donaldson raised when we were talking about the injured related to pensions. Legal definitions are for law makers, not victims. Putting that burden on victims and survivors is not something we would want to see. What cannot be allowed to happen is that this is viewed as too difficult, with the result that it is not addressed at all, because that would be unjust, immoral and unfair to people. There must be a way to resolve this and we have to find it.

Deputy Ferris raised the issue of truth and reconciliation. My concern is that due to the inadequacies of investigations, some families at this stage would not welcome that. That is the difficulty when we talk about this process. There is not even agreement within families about how this could be addressed, never mind within our wider society. One family may want to go down a very clear prosecution route, while others want information. Some will say it is too difficult to deal with and that they want to close this off and support their families. There are huge variations. My concern about the Stormont House Agreement is that we must get it right. It needs to be actioned, and people have been waiting 17 years for it. People are dying without having got the answers they want, and we must do something about it. We must improve what is provided to give people the answers they want. I want to see swift movement to achieve a system that is right and that delivers the best, bearing in mind that it will never meet everybody's needs and may never be acceptable to 100% of our population.

Mr. Kenny Donaldson:

I would like to pick up on Deputy Seán Conlan's question. Deputy Conlan is a neighbour of mine. I am in south Armagh and, as such, am just over the road from him. I note what we are trying to do to broaden awareness around issues in those areas. We have developed three Border trail routes in Fermanagh which brings out groupings and re-examines the issues in those particular areas. We have engaged with schools, faith groups and a range of other organisations. An example is the Cavan Inter-Faith Group, and there are other groupings, including a gardening and allotments group, believe it or not, which came down. We are very conscious of the issue of young people being pulled back into these problems and, as such, are trying to reach 13, 14 and 15 year olds in particular to bring them out and give them in cold and stark terms the consequences in reality of what they may have in mind. We talked about the agreement and the absolute insistence people had at that time around decommissioning. I was only a young fellow of 16 or 17 and I always believed that decommissioning of the weaponry was not the issue. The issue was the decommissioning of the mindset that wanted to use that weaponry. The problem is that, 20 years on, that still has not been fully decommissioned. That is the problem, because guns and bombs can be obtained within a very short timespan. It is the willingness to use them that is the problem. We take those issues very seriously in terms of trying to break the cycle.

There is goodwill among people south of the Border to engage with these issues. When we bring folk out, there is no politics and no glamorisation around what happened. There is no beefing it up, and it is told in very stark terms. Our organisation comes from a position that whomever was murdered, it was wrong. There is no justification for taking the life of another. That leads me on to the point Mr. Ian Bothwell made earlier. Until we get to a point at which minorities within communities are viewed as valued neighbours, as opposed to tolerated guests, we are going nowhere. That is the problem right across society, whether one is in a majority Protestant or a majority Roman Catholic community. Until the minority is valued by that majority community as having a place and adding to the area, one is going nowhere. Balkanisation will be rued by a majority on the day it happens.

Ms Kate Turner:

I believed I was to address a different topic from that addressed by Mr. Donaldson, the question of the Border, but I am following on.

A number of PEACE-funded projects started some of the dialogues. The first thing many of those concerned noticed was that people were really reluctant to begin those conversations and felt quite uneasy. They were even uneasy about being in a room together discussing matters, matters we just had not talked about for years. One project we were involved in used a group called Calipo, which produces theatre for young people. The young people talk about issues and then devise a drama around them. Calipo worked with youths from the Falls Road and Shankill Road, in addition to a group from Monaghan and, I believe, Dundalk. The facilitators were young. When asked about how the youths in Monaghan would understand that we were examining issues associated with the conflict, somebody said, “Apparently, we had a bomb in Monaghan. I guess we will have to cover that.” Those of us working with the facilitators said, “No, it is about the young people and what it means to them.” What the facilitators discovered when they talked to the young people was that they said they never go across the Border to visit their relatives but that the relatives across the Border come to visit them. The youths asked why that was the case and why there is an invisible barrier that they never cross. They felt many of the issues associated with criminality in their area were linked to the North and that gave rise to additional concerns. When they started unpacking all this, they realised the conflict was actually part of their everyday life but in really different ways than might be expected. The children really enjoyed exploring that and examining their here and now rather than seeing the matter through events we remember as being part of the conflict.

That ties into the point about the 2016 committee. Mr. Donaldson is correct that while we need to examine these events and remember them, we must do so in a way that does not re-traumatise people or make the battle continue. Sr. Twohig’s personal experience and even the mention of the Second World War pose a problem. We do not yet know how to address that. We have to learn to talk about those difficult issues, not only in terms of commemorating moments in time but also in the context of determining who we are and how we can work together.

Sr. Maura Twohig:

While I am listening, I am reliving those years in the North. I am challenged daily by the great commitment of so many people, such as those in the organisations Ms Peake and Mr. Donaldson represent. They devote considerable energy to their work every day.

I am 100% behind the view that all the practical steps that need to be taken must be taken. I need to say that because I am going to go back to my own underpinning level of depth again. That is not to say others are not doing so. When Mary Daly and I first went to Omagh, on invitation, to do something about peace there, we were invited to be part of the Omagh Churches Forum. We were the only two women and the only two non-clerics present. I remember those involved were great and I learned an awful lot from them. The first discussion was with people who were all from over the Border, where circumstances were very different. There was a group we needed to bring to convert and another group we needed to bring to its senses. Each believed the other was wrong. I was going out of my mind asking what was wrong and how there could be such differences within the one room. We did have the courage to say we were not prepared to be part of any activity to bring groups together until we could sit down as a group ourselves for at least a day with an external facilitator to talk to each other from the heart about where we were at. It was a matter of determining our own areas of prejudice and the problems we had with one another in the here and now. Until we can do that work ourselves, we are not fit to lead anything. To the credit of the group, it engaged in this process several times, not just once.

Some say they have a political agenda and must get re-elected - that is acceptable as we are all in a real time–space dimension - but I cannot make that secondary to the pain and grief arising from something else being neglected while money is being spent and my ego is becoming bigger. Do members know what I am talking about? Having listened to the contributions here, I noted the genuineness of Mr. Bothwell’s tears. I have seen them before and know how authentic they are. This peace must be touched.

It is not by accident that there is a desire across the country and the world for meditation and mindfulness. We have been teaching meditation and mindfulness for all the 20 years during which we have been in operation. In the past few years, we have been oversubscribed. We recently offered another programme, on foot of which 50 from the small town have signed up, with a view to starting in a week’s time. It is something of a call to know that one must first be at peace in one’s own mind and soul. I note every day that there is a challenge in this regard. The more I keep in the present moment, rather than the past or future, the better. However, the past and future are in the now. This is pertinent even as I walk along the street.

I was in a place yesterday in which everyone was of a European nationality other than Irish. Something within me was saying, “Dear God Almighty, what is happening our own people?” What had I to do next? I had to ask why there was a lack of openness that would allow us all to see one another as people? The individuals to whom I refer were giving tremendous service and were gracious. They were earning a living and they had a right to it. In other words, I must face my own prejudice every day and until I can actually face it and do something about healing it, progress cannot be made. In so far as I can achieve this, I can somehow facilitate the healing work that others want to be engaged in. We should first ascertain where we differ and then go into the other areas. Forgiveness, mindfulness, awareness and being in the present have to underpin all of the practical tasks that need to be done daily. If this does not occur, we will do more harm than good.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank Sr. Twohig. On a lighter note, she might give us the number of the facilitators. If we could bring them into Leinster House, it might help us.

Mr. Ian Bothwell:

Deputy Conlan has triggered something in me as a farmer’s son living at Tynan. I used to ride my bicycle up the Cor road to look at the pothole that separated County Armagh and County Monaghan. It is only in recent years that I have gone over to discover Glaslough and a whole new world on my doorstep. I was very aware as a boy growing up that farmers' sons were targeted. Some of my neighbours' eldest sons from Tynan, Newtownhamilton and Aughnacloy were killed in the Troubles. That made me feel very insecure and very aware. My father continued with the delivery of cattle and hired a man to transport them, a Catholic. I did not quite understand the significance of this at that time in my childhood. This made me think, “Who are they? What is that?” It was such that we were suspicious of the Catholics because they came and found information or addresses or the location of farms, and sometimes a farmer died in an isolated farmyard. I was very aware of that.

A grandmother told me her grandson asked her why she had sold the farm. He said that if she had not sold it, he would have had a site for a house. He said he had no site and she had no farm. He asked her why she sold up? She had to try to recall why she did so. She had no choice. How does one tell someone 20 or 30 years after the event why the farm is gone?

I think farmers need to talk and farmers may find it difficult to find the words because it concerns land, generation and inheritance.

The other group that I feel is too silent in Northern Ireland are the widows of RUC members. They suffered in silence and decided out of loyalty to their husbands not to talk. I have been at meetings where people have talked about their fear when the RUC invaded, kicked in the door, or ripped up the floorboards, and I saw them cringe because that was one side, while their story has yet to be told. If we had that openness for a greater story to come forward, I think there would be more healing and acceptance.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome the witnesses. We have already heard some powerful contributions. Some of the things the witnesses have said have provoked us, some of it is uncomfortable and challenging but that is what today is about. It is about listening and about recognition.

Mr. Bothwell was saying that people are sick of talking. He went on to refer the importance of talking. Maybe it is the quality of the conversation that is missing and maybe that is the gap we need to focus in on.

The whole idea of victimhood or victims challenges us; who is a victim and who is not? About five minutes away from here a friend of mine was killed, Martin Doherty, who was an IRA volunteer. There was a bomb being put in a pub with about 200 people in it. He stopped the people planting the bombs, saved about 200 lives and was killed himself. I do not think Martin would have thought of himself as a victim. Certainly his family members were victims. His sons were left without a father and his wife was left without a husband. Things like that challenge us. If people have lived in a State that discriminated against them, does that make them victims? If people are denied access to education, jobs or housing, does that make them victims? I suppose it does, but a lot of people do not feel like that. That is part of the conversation.

What Ms Twohig said about the image of the woman putting the hand on her child, blood coming away is powerful. It has been replicated thousands of times. We should not just remember the number of people who died, but also those who were injured. I do not think we have a list of those injured in the conflict. Does that mean they did not exist or were not important to their own families?

We have a huge body of work to do. I am one of these politicians who believe that if people need help or support, they should get it and I cannot understand why one group is discriminated against in terms of funding. What Mr. Donaldson said about location does not add up for me at all. It is one of the things that need to be addressed.

The witnesses are making us think, which is the most important thing. I hope those who are listening at home, who are more important than the people in this room, might find that this triggers something in them and they might want to do more.

Mr. Mickey Brady MP:

I thank the witnesses for their presentations. I am looking at the practicalities. The issue of reparation in terms of financial help and the Stormont House agreement has been referred to in respect of the welfare cuts. In the eight years that I was in Stormont, I was very much involved with the social development committee, so my background is in working with benefits. One of things I have not really heard from victims and survivors groups is opposition to the cuts. Whatever way people want to dress it up, the cuts will directly impact on victims and survivors.

One of the issues discussed in the Stormont House Agreement process was the fact that adults with long-term disabilities would have their benefits protected, as would children with disabilities and existing claimants. Certainly, as Mr. Donaldson suggested, one of the parties did renege on the welfare Bill, and that was the DUP. It was not prepared to protect those people and that will impact directly on those who have suffered horrendous injuries and who need care and attention. The changes will also affect carers, upon whom a lot of victims and survivors very much depend.

As someone with experience giving presentations on these topics, I did not really get the impression that the witnesses' groups were vociferous in opposing the changes. I would have thought it would impact directly on the people they deal with and represent on a daily basis. I still deal with benefits on a daily basis on a constituency and clinic level, from all sections of the community. I represent the Newry and Armagh constituency so I am au faitwith what Mr. Bothwell and Mr. Donaldson have been talking about. I have probably been around longer than both of them. At Crossmaglen I ran an advice centre for ten years in the eighties at the height of the conflict and was very much involved with all sides of the community. I have represented RUC personnel and UDR widows at tribunals, as they were not getting the pensions they were entitled to.

While the witnesses' presentations were very interesting, I do think they could have put forward more vociferous opposition to practical changes that are going to impact directly on the people they represent. It is important as it will affect not just victims and survivors but huge numbers of people, even more so the proposed changes in the working tax credit when we have approximately 90,000 working poor in the North. Some people are going to lose up to £2,000 per year. That will have a tremendous effect.

The changeover from disability living allowance to personal independence payments will impact directly on people the witnesses represent also.

Photo of Joe O'ReillyJoe O'Reilly (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the witnesses. Their presentations were very powerful and evocative. On the last point made by Mr. Brady, it occurred to me that here in the Republic, when somebody has a very particular, serious illness, unless there is a huge income involved, they will get what is knows as a discretionary medical card. In other words, they get free health services. It seems to me that, even within the context of welfare cuts - which nobody wants - and the restriction of budgets, there should still be provision for victims of violence. I know when we go into the area of victims suffering from trauma, it is more amorphous and difficult to pin down. Certainly those who have physical conditions arising from having been direct victims of violence, who are wheelchair bound or whatever, should get discretionary full health services, as they would if they had a very serious illness. Is that the case, and if it is not the case, could we pursue that for the witnesses? They should get any adaptation of houses as well.

The witnesses seem very negative about what the Stormont House Agreement has done for the legacy issues of victims. Do they see any good in it at all, and what improvements would they want?

My next question arises from Deputy Conlan's excellent suggestion about coming South with this story.

It is very important that a certain cohort of people in their teens know the realities of war, violence and all that goes with them. Transition year is a wonderful year that is in virtually all second-level schools. It is after the junior certificate at a very formative time in young people's lives. I formally suggest that there be a link-up with the education sector down here and that someone among the representatives visit all transition year classes - certainly in the Border counties - because that is where one finds the young people from all backgrounds. It is one group that involves everyone. I would be interested in hearing practical responses by the witnesses.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Unfortunately, time is running out after two hours but I welcome the witnesses' submissions. Who would like to come in first?

Ms Sandra Peake:

Deputy Crowe is no longer here but I want to pick up on what said. It is about the fact that labelling needs to be removed. I urge members to go to the "Silent Testimony" exhibition in the Ulster Museum when they are in Belfast. This is 18 portraits of people. Their eyes show how we must make this work. The labels have been removed so one does not know who they are and what background they come from, which is what it should be about. In respect of Mr. Mickey Brady, MP, we have made representation to Stormont and the special advisers and have made recommendations to the Commission for Victims and Survivors in respect of welfare. We have produced extensive evidence of the impact we believe it will have on victims and survivors. We see the impact of welfare daily in our work. Last year, our welfare advisers - we have the equivalent of two and a half posts for welfare - brought about £1.3 million to people who had lost benefits or were claiming them for the first time so we see the impact daily. We want to see protection for victims and survivors within that. We think that is very important. If the message has not got through in respect of the representations we have made, we are keen to hear why this is the case because our victims' commissioner and the people who are tasked should be fighting hard on these issues.

In response to Deputy O'Reilly, the reason for the negativity around the Stormont House Agreement is because we have seen a failure to deliver successive initiatives. People have put their heart and soul in pushing them. They see the Stormont House Agreement and the recommendations for victims and survivors tied up in a wider debate about welfare and they wonder what is going to happen. It is about preparing them for the fact that they may not get what they want. People are realistic in saying we need this.

My final point concerns education. Our youth services in the North have been cut drastically. WAVE has lost youth funding. We used to have over 300 young people in service provision. They are no longer there and young people must now be seen through our support structures which are not adequate. The removal and demise of youth funding and the ending of PEACE funding without any mechanism in its place to continue work with young people in particular have been damning indictments of our society.

Mr. Kenny Donaldson:

To touch on Deputy O'Reilly's question about the Stormont House Agreement, from our perspective, the issue around disclosure and the different commitments that exist are very important. We have raised this in the public domain and with political parties across the board and the two Governments. Unsatisfactory answers are coming back. Our constituency has looked at what has happened in respect of the Kingsmill case and that has not instilled a great deal of confidence that comparable commitments will be given south of the Border. Let us remember that Prime Minister David Cameron got to his feet in Westminster and rightly made redress for Bloody Sunday. That needs to be replicated across the board in all these issues. There is provision within the Stormont House Agreement for acknowledgements. What this means has not been teased out in that paper but we believe that if things are not to repeat themselves, we must put a line in the sand.

It goes back to a point I made at the start. The two governments and all proscribed organisations must make a commitment that the taking of life in the advancement or defence of a political objective is not justified. It is simple. If everybody across the board can make that commitment, where is the issue? It is a matter of consistency. I appreciate what people are saying here about grievances in the past. Minorities in this State could say likewise. There is no question that there were issues for minorities in Northern Ireland to deal with but the point is that this in itself was not a justification to go out and take your neighbour's life. In the areas we represent, people were not murdered while they were in uniform. They were murdered whenever they were milking their cows, delivering meals or visiting families. They were murdered when they were at their most vulnerable. That is not conflict. That is not a war. It cannot be described as that. We must break this cycle of violence once and for all and that is across the board. There was no legitimacy for any organisations involved in it, including any state involvement.

Ms Peake mentioned the welfare issue. Likewise, certainly within the Haass discussions and latterly in the run up to the Stormont House Agreement, we have made representations where we feel there is a very strong case for a special dispensation to be given to victims. Picking up on Deputy O'Reilly's point around it being more easily deliverable for the physically injured, we would have shared that analysis.

Something else can be done in terms of the Stormont House proposals. The actual rationale that would be used around the re-investigation of cases that have already gone through the Historical Enquiries Team, HET, process is very unclear. The HET process was effectively a desktop review. It did not amount to an investigation and there are many families out there who are very dissatisfied with what has happened. As this process sits, the remainder of the cases will be examined and then only in very special circumstances will a previous case be looked at again. The emphasis is almost being put on families and paralegal people to come up with the evidence rather than the actual law makers. We think a re-balancing is needed. One cannot put a time-line on justice. Justice does not belong just to victims. It is the bedrock of society. We should not make a victim choose whether they want justice or truth. Justice must always champion and this must be the bedrock of society.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Do any other witnesses wish to contribute?

Ms Kate Turner:

To follow on from the point regarding acknowledgement, in Healing Through Remembering, we have looked at the issue of acknowledgement for some time. We are carrying out a piece of work that examines why some acknowledgement statements seem to work and others do not to see if we can find out what is involved in the crafting and delivery of them. As Mr. Donaldson pointed out, why do some of them work while others do not work? We are very much looking at them as self-authored. It relates to a group or individual making that statement from their own perspective. How can it be done in a way that best enables it to have an impact on the audience?

Deputies Crowe, Conlan and O'Reilly raised the issue of conversations and stories. I would make mention of the oral history archive element of the Stormont House Agreement because it often gets lost while everybody looks at the HIU and ICIR, which are more legal aspects. It is in the agreement. I am not sure how much it can do but it is touching on those elements so it is important that it gets addressed.

We developed an exhibition of everyday objects transformed by the conflict. They are lent to us by a range of different collectors, each of whom writes their own label. That collection went on a tour in 2012, including the Border area and across the Border. A range of children's groups and school groups visited it. We thought that because they were objects from the conflict that were old, young people would not engage with them. In respect of whether it was a milk bottle in discussions about petrol bombs, milk does not come in bottles but they understood what a milk container is. We had a tape recorder that had recorded things. They do not see tape recorders but they understood the concepts.

It was an interesting way for them to be able to touch into the everyday life of the conflict in a way that was not necessarily about major incidents and distress. It got them interested and engaged without us having one version of the past. There is a whole range of different versions of the past, yet the exhibition was accessible and largely welcomed.

Mr. Ian Bothwell:

Listening to the previous contributions has kick-started a debate within me. I, too, have written to the Government about the cuts and I received a nice letter in reply which stated the Government was meeting need according to its policy. I have also had Ministers come to visit our centre and they say it is a nice place and we are doing great work. One of them even asked what he could do to help but that was the last I heard from him. I am not impressed that our letters have been lost in the system and our voices are not being heard or understood. Why are we not loud enough? Why do we not have the required clarity of thought or presence? Why is so much attention given to our politicians who are moving the system? Those are questions I am asking myself.

To answer the question about Stormont House, we are tired of our politicians moving centre stage and tired of policies that affect people in everyday life being neglected. I do not understand what the politicians are doing at the moment. Perhaps one day they will be able to explain the reason they are in and out, up and down and positioning themselves for the television cameras. Our politicians really can speak to the world through the media and they make wonderful speeches. While this is very impressive, it does not put bread on the table. I ask myself why that is the case and what more victims and survivors can do apart from writing letters. Why is our voice not being heard? Victims and survivors are asked to tell their story but are being neglected, ignored and rejected. We need to revisit that issue.

Westminster is wrong to roll out one cut after another. At the same time, there are people on the higher rate of disability living allowance, DLA, who may not need it. There are others, however, who need an adjustment or increase in their benefit. I am keen for an assessment period or some period of understanding. I do not believe the guys in Stormont understand what it is like for a person not to have access to a doctor because he or she lost the rag with the doctor's receptionist. That is not acceptable. People need to have access to a doctor.

Many things need to be changed. We can discuss these issues but we desperately need to see change in the lives of people. Otherwise, what is the purpose of Stormont?

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank the witnesses. This has been an informative, educational meeting and a very powerful one for members. I look forward to visiting the Silent Testimony exhibition in the Ulster Museum. I make regular visits to Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland and look forward to visiting the exhibition.

Sr. Twohig spoke about mindfulness. Many politicians down here could do with a little mindfulness.

My family comes from Cullyhanna, which is not too far from Mr. Donaldson. We must catch up. My colleagues and I would love to meet representatives of all the groups in Northern Ireland.

Ms Turner noted the importance of commemorations. The decade of commemorations reflects on our shared history and what has happened on the island. Much good can come out of commemorations if they are handled in a sensitive and sympathetic manner.

Members met Mr. Bothwell in Darkley a few years ago. He is also a neighbour of members of my family in Cullyhanna, which is not too far down the road from Darkley.

I propose to be a little self-indulgent on the issue of welfare. Two years ago, I highlighted the fact that, under a European court ruling, Irish people who had worked for most of their lives in England would be able to draw down the free fuel allowance from the United Kingdom. I understand as many as 10,000 people benefited from this change and received approximately £300. All of them had worked extremely hard in the UK and were very grateful for the payment. I have never received as many telephone calls on one issue. Those who received the allowance did not take it for granted and very much appreciated it. Sometimes, we discuss the issue of appreciation. My role on that issue may mean I am responsible for reducing the UK budget.

On behalf of the committee, I thank the witnesses for appearing before us. This has been an informative discussion on an issue that goes to the core of seeking real peace and lasting reconciliation. I also thank members for being brief and asking pertinent questions. I look forward to the next session at 12.45 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 11.45 a.m. and resumed at 12.45 p.m.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Given the sensitivities of the issues to be discussed today, I ask the members and witnesses to take special consideration of what I have just said regarding privilege.

I am very pleased to welcome Mr. John Teggart, spokesperson for the Ballymurphy Massacre families committee, Mr. John Kelly, spokesperson for Bloody Sunday families, and Ms Amanda Fullerton, spokesperson, Mr. Eddie Fullerton, family representative, and Mr. Austin Stack, spokesperson, from the Independent Victims and Survivors Coalition, here to discuss outstanding legacy issues in Northern Ireland affecting victims and relatives. I invite Mr. Teggart to make his opening statement, followed by representatives in chronological order, as per the circulated meeting schedule. Members can then ask questions.

Mr. John Teggart:

We thank the committee for the invitation to be here today. The focus of the points we wish to raise centres on the latest agreement from Stormont, the Stormont House Agreement, specifically provisions for a new historical investigations unit, HIU, with additional points on inquest issues affecting our families. The Stormont House Agreement provides for a new mechanism to deal with the past in the North, namely, the HIU. The HIU will have powers to obtain official documents. The starting point for all investigations, especially into the murder of our loved ones, will be the existing files and materials held by the state. While we are acutely aware that previous legacy investigations have been hampered by lack of access to official documents, in the Stormont House Agreement the UK Government makes a clear commitment to full disclosure to the HIU. In order to make this commitment a reality, the HIU will need a clear disclosure power with ability to compel state agencies to hand over the documents it needs for its investigations, including powers that set aside obligations of secrecy.

The agreement provides that the HIU is to investigate outstanding Troubles-related deaths, taking on both the outstanding historical enquiries team, HET, and Police Ombudsman caseloads. There are international obligations to independently investigate deaths. We are concerned that official legislation may still seek to take a restrictive approach to certain categories of case.

Regarding onward disclosure, the Stormont House Agreement provides that the only statutory duty on the independent HIU not to include certain information in its reports to families and publications will be that of ensuring it does not make disclosures that would jeopardise the safety of individuals. Like many other families, we eagerly await the detail of draft legislation. We are concerned that the UK Government will seek to roll this back and, instead, legislate for a power for Ministers to veto the contents of reports on the deliberately vague ground of "national security". Such a move would not be acceptable.

Regarding staffing, independence and equality, the HIU is to be an independent body. There is a legal obligation that those working in the HIU have no connection to the persons or organisations that may be the subject of their investigations. The official position to date has been to defer the HIU employment framework to the HIU director. The independence of this appointment and subsequent appointments will be critical to the families' confidence in the HIU's ability to deliver. It is not clear what provisions the UK legislation will have on either of these matters. The Ballymurphy families will reserve judgement on this mechanism until legislation is put in place.

In 2011, the Attorney General, John Larkin QC, directed fresh inquests into the deaths of our loved ones after consideration of overwhelming new evidence submitted by our legal representative, including witness statements and new forensic evidence. Over four years later, we have yet to have these inquests heard. This delay has been caused by the wilful failure of the Ministry of Defence and the PSNI to comply with their obligations to assist the inquest. The Ministry of Defence has informed the coroner that it cannot trace many of the soldiers involved in Ballymurphy. The PSNI also informed the coroner on 31 July 2015 that the one member of staff assigned to our case had been reassigned to another case. Only after the threat of legal action was someone reallocated to our case. The delay has also been compounded by the under-resourcing of the coronial system in the North of Ireland by the British Government and the Department of Justice. The coroner assigned to our case has been on sick leave since March 2015. To date, no new coroner has been appointed to fill the position, which has impeded the progress of the inquest.

The Stormont House Agreement committed the Northern Executive to bring forward proposals to improve the inquest system. We call on this commitment to be fulfilled as a matter of urgency. While the Stormont House Agreement commits to maintaining legacy inquests, we have question marks over how will this be reflected in the Stormont House Agreement legislation. Legacy inquests have been beset by a lack of resourcing and endemic delays linked to state agencies failing to disclose documents. Paragraph 31 committed to both inquests continuing as a separate process to the HIU and to Stormont taking steps to improve their effectiveness and independence in accordance with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights. Why, then, have no measures been taken forward to strengthen legacy inquests?

Since the commitment in the Stormont House Agreement to measures to improve inquests, endemic delays and problems have continued. The resourcing issues hampering legacy inquests have not been dealt with. Long-sought investigative support for the coroner is still not in place; the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice has refused a request from the Northern Ireland Policing Board to call Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary to examine the PSNI's role in delays in disclosure; and no effective plan appears to be in place to take forward legacy inquests following the retirement of the senior coroner.

The Ballymurphy Massacre left a total of 57 children with the loss of a parent. There are three judges sitting in the coroner's courts in Belfast. One is due to retire in October, and his replacement may not be in his post until Easter next year. The judge dealing with our case has been on long-term sick leave since March 2015 and we recently learned that the other coroner is on sick leave. With consecutive Chief Constables refusing to meet us, still no police investigation over 40 years later, empty judge seats in the coroner's court and the British Government refusing any proposals put forward by our campaign, where does this leave the Ballymurphy Massacre families today?

Mr. John Kelly:

It is a great honour for me, as a representative of the Bloody Sunday families, to speak before the committee. I am the brother of Michael Kelly, who was murdered on Bloody Sunday. I will begin with a word of acknowledgement. In 2010, following the publication of the Report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, the British Government and British Parliament made an unprecedented apology to those murdered and injured on Bloody Sunday and their families and friends.

The report unambiguously acknowledged the innocence of our loved ones. The families always knew, the people of Derry and Ireland always knew and now the world knows that innocent people were massacred on the streets of our city. Though the authorities in Northern Ireland have taken their time, we can also report that there is an ongoing PSNI murder inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday. The inquiry was first announced in December 2012, almost three years ago. It is our hope that it will be completed shortly and that charges will be laid against those responsible for murder and attempted murder. There is anger and frustration among the Bloody Sunday families that the murder inquiry is taking so long. Also, there is fear of the implications of the historical investigations unit Unit, HIU, possibly taking control of it. As the murder inquiry is in its final stages, we will resist its being moved to the HIU unless we can be convinced that the latter will still enable it to continue to completion without further delay or interference.

In June 2010 the families welcomed the publication of the report. We still do. It represented the culmination of our campaign for justice for our loved ones and for the city of Derry. That said, we do have a number of criticisms of the report, one of which we would ask the help of the Irish Government and Dáil Éireann in resolving. The first is that we believe that the level of culpability within the British Army and, indeed, the political establishment of that time goes much higher than those mentioned in the report. We have never been given a satisfactory answer as to why the Parachute Regiment was sent to Derry in January 1972, a regiment with an already infamous reputation for murdering civilians as a result of the massacre in Ballymurphy just a few months before Bloody Sunday.

The second weakness of the report lies in its treatment of Gerald Donaghey. While it should not be forgotten that the report declared Gerald completely innocent and stated that he should not have been killed, nevertheless, the report did conclude that he probably was carrying nail bombs in his pockets. This we strongly refute and it remains a festering issue of concern for Gerald’s family, the wider Bloody Sunday families and the people of Derry and beyond that this stain on his memory remains. The Bloody Sunday families and the Bloody Sunday Trust have been campaigning relentlessly about this issue and the new Derry City and Strabane District Council has passed a motion calling for this finding about Gerald to be withdrawn. On this matter, we now ask for the support of both the Dáil and the Irish Government.

The majority of the Bloody Sunday families would be the first to acknowledge that we have achieved most of what we set out to achieve. Equally, we acknowledge that many victims, especially those killed by the state and its security forces, still await some resolution of their issues and concerns. Sixteen years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement it is time for the past to be dealt with in a manner which meets the concerns of the victims, the imperatives of the peace process and the wider needs of society. We urge the committee to do all it can to see that this happens.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Thank you, Mr. Kelly. I now call Ms Amanda Fullerton, spokesperson for the Eddie Fullerton family, to make her presentation.

Ms Amanda Fullerton:

I thank the committee for inviting me to represent the Eddie Fullerton family and the Donegal community that he represented and to update it on our current case, and providing a platform to make our issues heard.

As we approach the 25th anniversary of the murder of Donegal Sinn Féin councillor, Eddie Fullerton, this statement suggests that British security forces and their agents were pivotal in planning and executing the assassination of Councillor Eddie Fullerton within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland. It also demonstrates how An Garda Síochána and the Irish authorities have over the years repeatedly failed the Fullerton family and the people of Donegal by consistently impeding their right to a thorough and transparent investigation into the matter. Eddie Fullerton was running for a third term as a Sinn Féin candidate in the Donegal County Council elections when, in the early hours of 25 May 1991, UDA assassins sledge-hammered their way into his Buncrana home while he lay asleep in bed. They shot him six times in front of his wife, Diana, killing him instantly and then sped back across the border to Derry, where they set fire to the hijacked getaway car. Since then, there have been serious allegations that the murder was a result of collusion and grave concerns have also arisen about the role played by An Garda Síochána which has, over the years, shown little interest in pursuing a proper murder investigation.

A significant eyewitness came forward on the day of the murder reporting vital information that should have been investigated immediately. However, the witness was instead subjected to an intimidating and clandestine interview, conducted by a senior ranking RUC officer and a senior Garda officer, at which no notes were taken. The crucial testimony was buried in 1991 and the Fullerton family was not informed of this significant development at the time. In December 1991, just seven months after the assassination, the Garda held an inquest affording the Fullerton family just a few days’ notice to attend and no time to avail of legal advice or representation. No forensic or ballistics evidence was brought to the inquest, even though we now know that a ballistic link to a previous murder had already been uncovered by the RUC and revealed to the Garda.

Under Section 25 of the Coroner’s Act 1961, a coroner shall, on an application by the senior Garda officer, adjourn an inquest if criminal proceedings are being considered or have been instituted. No such application was made by the Garda. In August 2006 an investigative review headed by a senior Garda officer revealed that forensic examinations had linked the guns used in the murder of Eddie Fullerton to 13 subsequent murders for which there were some convictions. This significant evidence had been known all along by the Garda and the RUC, with no investigative follow-up.

In 2007 the Historical Enquiries Team revealed that the identities of persons suspected of the assassination of Eddie Fullerton had been provided by the RUC to Garda authorities in 1991 and again in 1993 and that the Garda failed to respond in any way. Why? In 2012 the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, PONI, reopened his investigation into the Fullerton murder examining, among other things, the nature of information provided by the RUC to the Garda and actions thereafter and the robustness of the Border liaison process and information exchange specific to the Eddie Fullerton investigation. To provide a context for his investigation, the PONI's team considered the finding of de Silva's report of the Pat Finucane review, which raised concerns about state agencies colluding with the UFF-UDA to target Sinn Féin and Republican activists during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 2013 the Police Ombudsman presented the Fullerton family with an interim document summarising the findings of his investigation. Of serious concern to the Police Ombudsman was the Garda's refusal to co-operate in his investigation. He stated:

My enquiry has been hindered by the Garda being unable to allow my investigation team access to any of their murder documentation due to the case still being an ‘open’ murder investigation. The Garda refused my investigation access to retired Garda officers identified, by my investigators, as likely to have relevant information and knowledge that would assist my investigation.

The PONI investigation reaffirmed that the RUC had briefed the Garda on critical information relating to ballistics linking the Fullerton murder to other murders in Northern Ireland for which there had been convictions. The RUC had informed senior Garda officials in 1993 about a significant new line of inquiry pointing to people suspected of being involved in the assassination. These were never followed up by the Garda and, consequently, key suspects were never questioned. Why? The Police Ombudsman also investigated loyalist intelligence caches uncovered in Derry in the late 1980s. Among files found in one cache that originated with British Army sources was one on Councillor Eddie Fullerton containing photographs and contact details. The Police Ombudsman could find no record of Mr. Fullerton's having been informed of this recovery by the Garda or the RUC.

Regarding the witness account that had been buried in 1991, the Police Ombudsman report determined the witness to be a "significant witness", that is a person who witnesses an indictable or triable offence. He declared, “I have no reason to doubt that Person A did meet two senior police officers from both sides of the border as described”. The Police Ombudsman investigation also revealed critical new information of significant relevance to the Garda murder inquiry which the Garda had not previously known. This was transmitted by the PSNI to the Garda for its attention and action in 2013. The PONI investigation into the murder of Eddie Fullerton had instigated a further, more comprehensive, investigation to examine the links between loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces, including the handling and direction of state agents. The Police Ombudsman has stated that the wider PONI investigation, which is due to conclude by the end of this year, will “look further into the RUC’s strategic and tactical response to Mr Fullerton’s murder; this will include the management and sharing of information and evidence with An Garda Síochána”.

The Fullerton family is fully satisfied that there is a clear case to made against the Garda authorities of gross dereliction of duty, deceit and obstruction of justice. Given the disingenuous manner in which we have been dealt with in this matter, we have no faith in any further internal reviews or private inquiries. Our entire faith in the probity of the investigation conducted by An Garda Síochána to date has been fatally undermined.

The issues raised in this statement necessitate forthright action by the Irish Government for the immediate establishment of a fully transparent and cross-jurisdictional public inquiry into the assassination of Councillor Eddie Fullerton and the subsequent flawed murder investigation. The Fullerton family also calls for a reopening of the inquest. Since June 2009, An Garda Síochána has had no contact with the Fullerton family, notwithstanding the open status of the investigation and critical new information transmitted by the PSNI in 2013 which constitutes a new line of inquiry.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank Ms Fullerton. I invite Mr. Austin Stack, spokesperson for the Independent Victims and Survivors Coalition to make his presentation.

Mr. Austin Stack:

Thank you Mr. Chairperson, and committee, for inviting us here today. It is an honour and privilege to be the voice of the many families of gardaí, members of the Prison Service, Army personnel and civilians who lost their lives at the hands of terrorists during the Troubles in the Republic of Ireland.

The Independent Victims and Survivors Coalition is a group that was formed recently to give a voice to those people who have been most affected by the Troubles. While many individual members of State agencies, State forces and the public have been immensely supportive, our voices have remained largely forgotten by politicians, policy makers and the public. Our group has come together to collectively address this imbalance and to show how our experiences can help shape a better Ireland, North and South. The group is independent and non-political, and is open to all victims and survivors. In representing those who have had to deal with the consequences and the legacy of the terrorism that visited their families and loved ones, the group has four aims: Truth recovery, justice, support and services and remembrance and recognition.

There are many unsolved crimes from the Troubles, some of which date back 20, 30 and 40 years. While the terrorists who committed those crimes have had the luxury of living a full life and all that entails, those who have had to live in the shadow of the crimes have not been so lucky. The victims in these cases have had no answers to their questions, have had no admission of responsibility and will most likely never get justice for their loved ones. Faced with that stark reality, we are in favour of and would fully commit to a truth recovery process.

However, the group feels that the process as envisaged and agreed by the Governments in the Stormont House Agreement falls well short of meeting the needs of victims. For the Stormont House Agreement to become acceptable to victims the following is required. The process of truth recovery must be victim-centred with representatives of victims involved in the structures, management and oversight of the process, as was envisaged by the Haass proposals. Not including the voice of victims at this level is a grave mistake and needs to be rectified by the Governments; the process of truth recovery must be done in public so that victims who have had to suffer quite publicly and have been subjected to public denials over a long number of years can have a public admission of truth. The exact detail could be negotiated with victims groups. There can be no hidden truths. The process of truth recovery must be transparent. The current proposals stop well short of giving victims all the relevant information regarding their cases and, crucially, they do not allow victims to meet with or question those supplying information or the perpetrators. Victims must be able to trust the process and to do that we need to be able to test and question the evidence. Being handed a report by a third party in this manner is not acceptable and is not truth recovery.

As was pointed out previously, many victims and survivors of the Troubles will never get justice. The group realises that with the passage of time evidence becomes harder to obtain and cases become harder to prosecute. However, many still hold out hope that they will get their day in court. We are very concerned by the remarks made last year by the former Attorney General, Michael McDowell, that the Government had decided not to pursue historical cases. While victims were not consulted on the Good Friday Agreement and had no voice in the process, many have now come to terms with the conditions of the Agreement and what that means should there be convictions in cases that are relevant to them. This group is founded on the principle of not seeking revenge. In most cases, while the victims would like to see a guilty verdict in open court, the length of a prison sentence is of lesser importance as we realise the implications of the Good Friday Agreement in this regard. The group does, however, seek assurances from the Government that all historical cases will continue to be vigorously investigated and prosecuted, especially as many of the victims were in the service of the State when murdered in the line of duty.

The group is very concerned about the way many of the investigations relating to crimes from the Troubles were carried out. There appears to have been a gross mismanagement of many cases and those, unfortunately, all seem to be quite similar in nature. In many cases, eye witnesses were not called to identify perpetrators, material evidence has mysteriously gone missing, fingerprint evidence is missing and persons of interest were not questioned. The group believes that not all of the issues can be put down to simple incompetence and poor techniques at the time. We are firmly of the belief that other forces were at play. The group strongly believes that there needs to be a full public inquiry into the way these investigations were carried out and we ask the committee to support us in this request.

The personal stories and narratives of victims are mostly hidden and our voices have gone unheard for decades in some cases. This group feels that these stories need to be told so that policy makers, politicians and the public become more aware of the harms and suffering that we have had to deal with, mostly alone or within our families, as there has never been any official recognition of our suffering or supports put in place to help us. Many victims have had to deal with issues such as media intrusion, sleeplessness, othering, anxiousness, panic, fear, mental illness, alcoholism, domestic violence, poor educational outcomes, and marriage break-ups, to name but a few. Those issues often manifest themselves in victims many years after the initial trauma of the terrorism visited them. The committee would benefit from hearing the personal testimonies of some victims and I invite the committee to arrange for this to take place at some stage.

Our group feels that the Irish Government needs to put a structured set of supports in place for victims and survivors. We are aware that the Government through the reconciliation fund supports victims and survivors in Northern Ireland and we hope for parity of esteem with those groups. The group feels these supports should be centred on counselling and therapeutic needs, education needs, respite needs and supports to help victims aid the reconciliation and healing process.

In order to achieve that, the group calls on the Government to establish a victims commission and victims forum similar to that in Northern Ireland. Our vision would be that such a commission would manage these supports and provide advice to victims groups and individuals. The group would also be in favour of exploring the idea of having one centralised service for victims and survivors groups in the UK, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

For the victims' families and for survivors, remembering and recognition is very important and it is something that we have often had to do in a private and isolated fashion. During the Troubles 12 gardaí, one member of the Defence Forces and one member of the Prison Servicewere murdered while defending this State. It is a very sore point with some of the families that the bravery of their loved ones, who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our country, has not been officially recognised by the State by way of memorials or bravery medals. However, we are aware these cases are in the minority and that there has been recognition in other cases. This group is also aware that many members of our security forces who served during the Troubles are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I also remind the committee that a Member of the Oireachtas, Senator Billy Fox, also had his life cut short by terrorists, as did many civilians in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and individuals such as Tom Oliver in County Louth.

Recognising and remembering all victims and survivors equally is something the State has failed to do, mostly because we believe the State does not want to be seen to concede that it was fighting a war against these terrorists.

This group is now calling on the Government to award special service medals to all members of the State's forces who served during the Troubles and bravery medals to those members murdered in the line of duty, if it has not already been done, open discussions with civilian victims on how best to recognise their loss or harm, reopen the Remembrance Commission and create one national memorial to all innocent victims and members of the State's forces murdered during the Troubles, at which an annual memorial service could be held.

On behalf of the victims and survivors coalition, I thank the committee for giving us the opportunity to address how the legacy of the Troubles has impacted and continues to impact on us. We believe that for too long the perceived focus of the peace process has been on the perpetrators. The time has come to change this and allow the focus to be placed on the innocent victims and those who risked their lives in upholding the rule of law and preserving civil society. We are asking the committee to support our suggestions and recommendations as to how our specific needs can be dealt with in the areas of truth recovery, justice, support services and recognition and remembrance.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank Mr. Stack. I now invite questions from members. Once again, we will try to use the two minute rule. The submissions have been made by the delegates. I am asking members, therefore, to pose questions rather than make submissions.

Photo of Seán ConlanSeán Conlan (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I welcome the delegates. To lead on from the previous session, the point was made by Mr. Stack at the end of his submission about the lack of supports for victims in the Republic in comparison to what was available in Northern Ireland. The issue was raised by the speaker for Innocent Victims United in a previous presentation. This is glaringly obvious and needs to be addressed. It should have been addressed years ago and why it has not been is something we need to investigate. It is important that the committee raise this issue now and try to deal with it on behalf of the victims groups, both North and South. I was interested to hear that contribution because it tied in with what Mr. Donaldson had said during the last session about the comparison between what was available to the victims of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings or members of the security forces in the South and what was available in Northern Ireland, where I know that it is inadequate. The presentations have made it quite clear that pensions and victim supports in the North are inadequate, but they are non-existent in the Republic. This issue needs to be dealt with immediately.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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Like the Chairman and Deputy Seán Conlan, I compliment those who have made presentations. It is not easy to come here and make presentations on losses within one's own family. I appreciate fully that fact. Mr. Teggart will recall that we had conversations some time ago, a discussion and an all-party Dáil motion on the Ballymurphy massacre. That issue needs to continue to be pursued with the British Government. There was unanimity in the Oireachtas on it.

I have a question for Mr. Kelly. He has concerns that the PSNI murder investigation into what happened on Bloody Sunday might be included within the remit of the historical investigations unit, HIU. The HIU will not be established for some time. As he is aware, legislation is required to go through Westminster on that issue. Has he or his group heard that the PSNI investigation may be referred to the HIU? Will he elaborate on the matter?

Ms Fullerton mentioned that crucial information on the murder of Councillor Fullerton had been buried. Will she refer specifically to that issue?

Mr. Stack made some very good proposals on relatively small issues that could help to show the State does not forget or is not trying to remove from its collective memory the people who were defending the State and murdered by terrorists such as his father. It would be very simple to have a memorial to those who were murdered in the line of duty. These were members of An Garda Síochána, the Permanent Defence Force and the Irish Prison Service. We are all conscious of the loss of life during that awful period in our history.

Mr. Stack also mentioned that there was greater empathy in the Haass proposals about dealing with some of the issues than had emerged in the final Stormont House Agreement. Will he elaborate on this point? Has he had an opportunity to put to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Northern Ireland parties the need to revisit those issues in respect of which the Haass proposals would have made some progress?

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
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We have heard powerful and challenging presentations both this morning and now. I have no doubt that they will continue in the next session.

Two things strike me, the first of which is that all of the witnesses have been on a very long road. The second is that there has been a lack of justice. We know that justice delayed is justice denied. We know what the attitude of the Irish Government to the Ballymurphy massacre is, but whereto from here? Is there some practical and realistic thing this Parliament could do?

Deputy Brendan Smith referred to the motion, the fact that the delegates had met the Taoiseach and that the Taoiseach was up against a stone wall when it came to the powers that be. What do the delegates suggest should happen next?

Mr. Kelly has mentioned something that comes up all the time. It is time the past was dealt with. There are so many views on how it can and should be dealt with. Some people are looking for closure; others are looking for their day in court, while more again are looking for punishment and prosecution. Can they complement each other? Can we come together to agree on how we should deal with that issue?

The other issue raised this morning concerned the need for services and supports. Is Mr. Kelly linked with the various groups we met this morning? What is his knowledge of their work? We heard powerful presentations from them and it sounded like they were engaging with quite a lot of people. Does Mr. Kelly have direct connections with them?

I was struck by Mr. Stack's statement that the victims had not been consulted on the Good Friday Agreement. Will he say a little more about that matter?

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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That comples the first round of questions. I ask the delegates to respond.

Mr. John Teggart:

Deputies Brendan Smith and Maureen O'Sullivan referred to the all-party motion in the Dáil. I received a letter from the Taoiseach yesterday informing us that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, had raised the issue with the Secretary of State, Ms Theresa Villiers. The letter goes on to refer to the all-party support in the Dáil for the Ballymurphy families' request for an independent panel. The request was made, but there is no reflecting on what she is going to do. We are into the sixth year of a Tory Government. In all that time the Tory Government has not been serious about addressing these issues and that will continue. The HIU was going to be legislated for in October, but she is going to hold at ransom until the talks are finished. We do not really have much faith in the HIU or anything concerning the British state. The Tory Government's policy on dealing with the past is completely negative, to the point where there is a lack of engagement with the coroner in inquests. The PSNI and the Ministry of Defence are slowing things down. For example, the Ministry of Defence was supposed to hand over 33 files from the historical enquiries team, HET. It was given six weeks - a long time - to deal with redactions and so forth. We have most of the files already, but six or eight weeks passed and they were not ready. When the coroner asked why they were not ready, they shrugged their shoulders and just said they were not ready and there was no explanation. That is how we are being dealt with in the coronial system. The British Government, the Ministry of Defence and the PSNI are not treating it seriously.

Do we engage with other groups? We do. I have met most of the people here. We deal with different sections and some of us are good friends a long time now.

We engage with the likes of the family members of those affected by the Shankill bombing. We have met all these people during the years and they are the same as ourselves. We always recognise that their hurt is the same as ours.

I think it was Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan who asked about the Haass talks. It was put forward by almost all parties at those talks that the legacy inquests, on which I want to focus today, should continue. When the time came to agree to the Stormont House Agreement in the early hours of the last day, the legacy inquests were attacked. They would have been done away with if the two Nationalist parties - Sinn Féin and the SDLP - had not stood their ground and insisted that this was not a matter for negotiation. A paragraph in the Agreement states the legacy inquests should be addressed, properly resourced and made compliant with Article 2. That has not yet happened.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank Mr. Teggart.

Mr. John Kelly:

I was asked about whether the historical investigations unit should have an input into the murder investigation. As far as we are concerned, we have come so far down the road the investigation has been ongoing for three years. I will give an example. When we met a representative of the PSNI last Wednesday, we were given a complete breakdown of where we were. Perhaps the committee will understand where I am coming from when I say we should not be involved with the historical investigations unit. Up until last week, of the 131 soldiers who have been identified as witnesses on the day, 27 are confirmed to be deceased, 55 have declined to engage or are not compellable, 34 have made witness statements and seven others are engaging. That is the position on the army witnesses. Of the 953 civilian witnesses who have been identified, 394 have passed away, 239 have declined to assist and 300 statements have been provided. Nearly 400 of those who witnessed the events of Bloody Sunday have passed away. I am trying to say we are coming to a point in this fairly indepth investigation at which we might be seeing the end of the journey. We have been told seven or eight military witnesses have yet to be interviewed. Some 26 of the 29 shooters are still alive and seven or eight of them will be interviewed under caution from mid-October onwards. We are looking at the investigation being finalised in a couple of months.

It would deplorable if we were slotted into the historical investigations unit. If we are, we will experience a knock-back, just as we have experienced previously in recent years. In other words, if there is a possibility that the historical investigations unit will take over, it will need time to re-examine all of the evidence. That would probably take months. It might take the unit a couple of years even to decide to look at the investigation into the Bloody Sunday murders. It is important to us that the investigation not be interfered with in any way. It should be allowed to run its course as it is nearly complete. The PSNI has almost completed its work. We are hoping it will be completed quite soon - perhaps early next year. Once it is complete, God knows what length of time it will take the PSNI to complete its report. It might take it a couple of months to do so. Then the matter will have to go back to the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland which will be responsible for making a decision on whether to prosecute. If the historical investigations unit steps in and takes over, everything will be put way back. We do not want that to happen.

We are coming up to 44 years since Bloody Sunday. The families have worked religiously for many years to ensure we come to the end of the journey. To be truthful, my family and I, like many other families, want prosecutions of the soldiers - the murderers and those who attempted to murder our people that day. It boils down to one word - justice. Justice has to be seen to be done. I will put it this way. The PSNI murder investigation is the only thing we have. We believe the PSNI authorities are the only ones who can deliver the end result and we are waiting patiently. By the way, we are very patient people. We have been waiting for nearly 44 years, which is a very long time. We are waiting to see the end of the process and do not want interference from anyone. It is as simple as that.

We were asked about meetings with other groups and so on. As Mr. Teggart rightly said, we have worked together for many years. We have worked with many other groups, including the Loughinisland and Ballymurphy groups. We have been passing on our own experience during the years to the other groups in the hope it will help them to achieve what they have set out to achieve. We are open to talk to anyone - no matter who he or she is - and pass on our experience to them.

I would like to make a point about what is in place for the families. At the time of Bloody Sunday, no counselling was provided for any of the families - the mammies, daddies and wives - who had lost loved ones that day. Nothing was done for them; they had to deal with it themselves. To be truthful, the families get very little, unless we approach people to ask them to help family members. A group in Derry, Cúnamh, has been very helpful duirng the years in counselling and preparing people to move forward in their lives. All I can say to the committee is that this is an everyday struggle for us. The sooner we see the end of the process and are able to move on with our lives, the better. I reiterate that there should be no interference whatsoever from anyone.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Does Ms Fullerton wish to comment?

Ms Amanda Fullerton:

I would like to enlighten the committee on the question of the information that has been buried. I will start with the present day. Why is the Garda Commissioner refusing to co-operate with the inquiry of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland? All of the documentation and anything relevant to the ombudsman's investigation is buried. That sets the context, 25 years after the murder. From the outset, the Garda authorities have consistently buried any line of inquiry that has been pushed to them from the RUC side. We would never have known this if the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Dr. Michael Maguire, had not set about unravelling all the bits of information coming his way and seriously and earnestly investigating these lines of inquiry. Every time something has been provided by the RUC during the years, there has been no response from the Garda in the South. An Garda Síochána has been extremely reluctant to communicate with the Fullerton family. A reinvestigation that commenced in 2004 reported in an interim way in 2006. The document with which we were presented on that day was unacceptable. We were told not to make it public at the time, but I am more than happy to table it and make it public now. It was shambolic. The key witness statement was totally disregarded.

On the night of the murder, a member of the media who was well versed on all of the issues in Northern Ireland and who reported on them witnessed something that the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland now defines as triable and indictable. That was completely disregarded. It stirred enough interest on the day of the murder that he was visited by a chief superintendent on the RUC side and the Garda side. He was interviewed in a car parked outside his home. That information was never followed up. We were never told about it. On the night of the murder, this witness saw three men at the scene where the getaway car was burned out. He saw them being picked up and driven away. We did not know about this until he approached my family in 2003 when he informed my brother of what he had seen. He has since provided seven statements for various people, including in the Garda in its reinvestigation, our legal team and the ombudsman's inquiry. Having interviewed this witness and applied the correct protocol for witness statement-taking, the ombudsman is satisfied that he did see what he says he saw on the night of the murder. The ombudsman's investigation has also identified a member of the RUC who was at the scene of the burned-out car and corroborates what the witness has said about what happened on the night in question. That is just one small example.

The ombudsman unveiled how in 1991 a team of gardaí travelled to the North to meet the RUC team to be informed at a formal meeting in a police station in the North. I know the name of the police station. I am very concerned about saying too much because there is an ongoing and live wider investigation which I do not want to compromise. At that meeting, the ballistics relating to the murder of Eddie Fullerton were discussed and linked to a recent murder in the North at the time. That was never followed through. There were suspects and arrests relating to that murder.

This all happened prior to the inquest. The inquest was then called at short notice on 19 December 1991. One member of my family was contacted by the Garda and that member had the responsibility of gathering us into a community hospital. There were no witnesses that I can remember at that inquest. We had never suffered a murder like this before. We were an ordinary family from Donegal and we did not realise we could have legal representation. We did not realise that the inquest should have been about much more than the injuries sustained by Eddie Fullerton. We did not realise about the ballistics or the significant witness statements, etc. That is another example of serious information being buried.

The number of statements taken at the time of my father's murder was minimal and they were confined largely to family and others. I think there were approximately 120 statements until the re-investigation, when the number went up again. There was nothing meaningful ever taken. On record, that key witness statement amounted to 300 words and he does not remember signing it.

We have been told time and again about the RUC informing the Garda about significant information it had about potential suspects for the murder, and with good reason. That seems to have fallen into a black hole. There is no record of any kind of follow-up. In 1993, after a high-level atrocity, a significant witness came forward. There was a high-level meeting between the RUC and the Garda Síochána and the names of suspects were again passed over. That was not followed up. The important aspect of that was that we, specifically as a family, had heard in the media about this potential link and my mother went to the Garda superintendent and asked for those suspects to be interviewed. We were told in a follow-up meeting by a detective that those witnesses had been questioned and they had nothing to do with anything. She was told it would be in her best interests not to pursue the matter. We know that those suspects were never questioned about Eddie Fullerton's murder.

Going back to 2013, the ombudsman again uncovered a significant new line of inquiry, which was again furnished through the PSNI to the Garda. We have had no contact from the Garda and even then the Garda has indicated it will not co-operate with the police ombudsman investigation. The lack of co-operation by the Garda and the lack of willingness to meet the ombudsman's team provides verification for our family and vindicates everything we have said all along. The Garda in this State, for some reason, is not interested in investigating Eddie Fullerton's assassination.

Mr. Austin Stack:

I will take Deputy Smith's question first as to whether our group has spoken to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade or officials in the Department with respect to the Stormont House Agreement. Before the group was formed, I had a private meeting with the Minister about four weeks after the Stormont House Agreement was signed. When I read the document initially, I was quite worried about the issue of victims being able to meet the people providing the evidence or the perpetrators. Some victims would not feel capable of sitting down with the perpetrators, although in my case I would have no problem doing that. The way the Stormont House Agreement was drafted, it raised concerns that we would not be able to get that level of engagement. I got specific assurances from the Minister at that meeting that this would not be the case and we would be able to engage with the people who gathered the information and, if we so wished, with the perpetrators. I emphasised that this process needed to be done in public in some fashion, although I realise there would be great difficulty in how that could be managed. It is managed in South Africa in a way and there could be negotiations on how this could be done in public. In our view, to instil confidence and credibility, there would have to be some public element in how the information is given to victims. Victims must be able to test the evidence and information given to them.

In my specific case, when I met a representative of the IRA with Gerry Adams in 2013, there was one particular piece of the evidence given to me that I knew to be untrue and I was able to question the person about that and test what was being said. It was quite powerful from my perspective to be able to do that. In a forum like a proper truth recovery process in an official Government-backed process, we must be able to do it. That would give us and the public a sense of credibility about the issue.

When I was preparing for this, I spoke to many families and particularly relations of gardaí murdered during the Troubles. One family was quite upset and I was asked to bring to the committee that this garda's family had seen no recognition or medal for the murdered individual. The person was blown up with a bomb and his family is quite upset that no medal has been awarded to him. It is a simple issue for a family to get recognition, but 40 years later it still has not been done. As Deputy Smith mentioned, a national memorial could be quite easily done. It would not break the bank or offend anybody. For the 14 members of the State's forces and the many civilians - it would include the victims of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and individuals like Tom Oliver, who were murdered during the Troubles - the families should have some sense of the State recognising and remembering their loss.

With regard to the Haass proposals and the Stormont House Agreement, in the meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, he agreed to take on board what I said. I specifically indicated that, in the Haass proposals, the victims and community groups in Northern Ireland would be allowed to have input into the structures and organisation, including how they would work. We are concerned that the Stormont House Agreement, especially with respect to the independent commission for information retrieval, has structures comprising only political people. They are representatives of political parties, the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister. Documents have been leaked in recent weeks on how families will be given a heavily redacted document, with no chance to engage, and that would not have happened if the Haass proposals had been implemented. The victims would have had input into the structure of the organisation at the very start. From that perspective, we are not happy at all with the way the commission has been set up.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked about consultation with other groups.

My group has had some contact - not a lot of contact - with other groups. Individually, before we formed the group, I had a bit of contact with some of the groups. I found it interesting that the Victims and Survivors Service in Northern Ireland will deal with me as an individual but it will not deal with my group as a group. I can get an award as an individual from the Victims and Survivors Service in Northern Ireland to the value of £500, but the group cannot get any support and there are no supports in this jurisdiction. This is the reason for the suggestion that one victims and survivors group should be allowed to help, support and fund the individual groups in the Republic, the North and the UK. That would be something we would suggest very strongly because at the moment it is very haphazard. There are very few groups. I am only aware of one other group representing victims in the South. We are only at the start of the process but we have had some engagement.

On not being consulted on the Good Friday Agreement, I will give the Deputy an example of how this affected us. On the day of the prisoner releases from Long Kesh, I had a day off work and I was looking at Sky News. I saw all the flag waving with people coming out and partying and whatnot. I immediately thought of my mother. I got in my car and I drove to Portlaoise to my mother. She was sitting in the front room of the house bawling her eyes out, seeing these terrorists out celebrating and yahooing and partying. That had an extremely bad effect on my mother that day. The Good Friday Agreement is perceived rightly or wrongly to be very perpetrator-centred and not victim-centred. The perpetrators seem to have been the ones who got all the gains and the victims were never consulted. The simple thing would have been for the victims to have been consulted and we would have told the governments that if they were going to do prisoner releases, which we realise would have to be done, they should do it in a low-key, staggered fashion. It would have been as simple as that and it would have meant that many people would not have been upset.

That is just something simple. It could have been done quite easily in the South because there are only 14 families of State forces concerned in the South. They would have been quite easily contactable by the Government at the time. There were also the civilian victims, but again there are not that many. We are not a body of people who are hard to get. People know where we are.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank Mr. Stack.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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The common theme from all the witnesses is that they are all asking why. I was interested to hear what Ms Fullerton said about the Garda not having a proper investigation. Mr. Stack is saying the same. They are coming from different angles, but both are saying there are agendas but that the agendas appear to be different. I would be interested to hear the witnesses expand on that. The witnesses are asking why they would not investigate. The witnesses said it was because of State collusion with agents in the North, that for the groups the witnesses represent it is because it is recognition that there was a war, conflict or whatever. In both cases it comes across as really incompetent. Is it deliberate incompetence?

In Ms Fullerton's situation, was there follow through on forensic evidence in the house? I am aware that her house had annexes and so on, but these people seemed to know exactly where to go.

Regarding the group Mr. Stack represents, gardaí were investigating members of the Garda who were killed, yet he is saying they did what they did deliberately even at that time. Is it similar to the case of Eddie Fullerton in that evidence went missing? It was lax, incompetent and so on. This is the first time I have heard any of this, so I am not aware of it. I am aware of them in the Fullerton case because again the families have briefed us and so on. I think the witness is right about the victims not being more involved in the negotiations leading up to the peace process. However, I do not know if we would have got an agreement if victims had been centrally involved in it. I think that all those different groups were coming together and bringing their own constituency forward and so on. It might not have happened. I am surmising; I do not know. I think the Unionists would have huge problems bringing victims in. I think they were forces that were out there.

We are listening to what the witnesses are saying on some of the things that need to be done. This process is mostly about listening to the witnesses. It has to be about coming up with solutions and answers. The witnesses should feed their views into the committee and at least we can put it in the system.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal South West, Independent)
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I thank all the witnesses for their interesting presentations. As a former member of Donegal County Council, I wish to start by asking Ms Fullerton a question. I remember when sitting in the chamber in Lifford seeing Eddie Fullerton's picture looking down on the chamber. It is hard to believe that 25 years later we still have no answers regarding the investigation. What she has related today about the investigation is very stark. Does she see any potential for any historical investigations-type unit in the South to get answers about Eddie Fullerton's assassination for her and her family just to see what kind of process could be developed in the South? Does she believe that would help or does she believe that co-operation with the ombudsman in the North is the way to go? How could we progress it in the South?

For Mr. Stack and the victims group we may have an opportunity in the South to go further than what is envisaged in the Stormont House Agreement. How could we develop that and go forward in terms of recognising victims and dealing with historical cases? Perhaps we should look at that in the South as a way of highlighting the differences. Perhaps by doing things properly here if the will is here, we might be able to highlight how things can row back in the Six Counties in particular.

I am very struck by the presentations of Mr. Teggart and Mr. Kelly. The Ballymurphy families hope that the historical investigations unit might provide an opportunity, but then when one looks at how that will probably row back in terms of legislation over the next couple of months, that is one of the most disappointing things. We have the Stormont House Agreement which is supposed to be an international agreement and then we get legislation that is supposed to come from that that will be watered down and probably rowed back on through the process in Westminster. Do the witnesses have faith that it will deliver for them?

In the case of the Bloody Sunday families I believe there is a very real risk that they could be forced into the HIU process as well. I think it gives a very stark outline of the risks involved and the potential for slippage on all these processes as well. Every agreement seems to be an attempt to push things forward and nothing is really happening in terms of progressing things for victims and their families.

Mr. Francie Molloy:

What comes across to me in all of this is the lack of truth and the lack of justice.

In most cases there was no investigation or poor investigation, and certainly no truth has come out of all of that. We see so many similarities between what we are talking about here and so many other cases that I am aware of. I know Ms Anne Cadwallader is presenting, and her book itemises a number of those.

In regard to Bloody Sunday particularly, it highlights the fact that whenever one gets an agreement from the British Government at the highest level that there was murder, one does not get speedy investigation of it. I am sure the investigation of those murders did not actually start after that agreement. Three years on from that, however, and we are 44 years on form the events. The investigation is very old in that situation. The information required could have been given almost immediately but that speedy approach is lacking..

It also seems to show a lack of collective responsibility on the part of both governments. If one looks at all of the cases here, either in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and Cavan and all the different bombings that happened, there was no release of information from the Irish Government that it was aware there was collusion or participation of British forces. It brings into question the point of either agreements or inquiries because it all seems to be merely a delaying tactic to get it until as many as possible are deceased and are no longer there to be interviewed.

From the witnesses' point of view, what is, I suppose, the conclusion that they would come to? How does one put this into a truth commission? Mr. Stack referred to the South African situation but that was different because there was a conclusion with the Government opening up, whereas here we do not have that, even in regard to Dublin-Monaghan.

It is significant that no members of the security forces in the North have served a day for any of the incidents involved. Very few have even been questioned or charged. I am not certain what the situation is otherwise. The protection of citizens would seem to be the responsibility of both governments and that is a failure that has happened across the board.

In Ms Fullerton's case, in regard to the murder of Eddie Fullerton, who I knew on the council and during the whole politics of it, the very fact that an RUC man and a garda could quiz someone amounted to a hijacking. It was holding somebody under false arrest, yet none of those persons were charged with that. It is not unusual - it is certainly no surprise to me - that a member of the RUC was seen at the scene of the car being burned out because that seems to be a regular changeover or transfer that happened so many times.

The big issue we have in regard to the Good Friday Agreement, the release of prisoners or all of these things, is that the detail required to deal with them is lacking. The Agreement was made but it seems the first issue, from both governments' point of view, is how does one break it - where are the loopholes, how does one get out of it and how does one fail to implement the Agreement. What is the witnesses' solution to how we can bring this forward? Perhaps it is a question of more committees and more investigations. They will not deliver anything different to what has already been there previously.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank Mr. Molloy. I will ask the witnesses to respond.

Mr. John Teggart:

I will respond to Deputies Crowe and Pringle. Deputy Crowe asks why would they not investigate. Although it was for some of the other witnesses, it really covers ourselves as well. From 1971 until now, there has never been any police investigation into the deaths of 11 civilians in Ballymurphy. At the time, the only input from the RUC was to take photographs in the morgue. That was their only input. At the inquest in 1972, any eye-witnesses' account that they had got from the British Army were handed over in a brown envelop, including their ciphered names. The British Army was not cross-examined at the time. Its statements were taken in good faith.

In our new inquest, we got disclosure of their redacted statements that were taken at the time. One example of that would have been the shooting of Eddie Doherty, who was shot in the back on 10 August 1971. The soldier's statement was that he had fired one, aimed and shot at a petrol bomber, but his real statement, which we have got hold of through our legal representative, showed he emptied the magazine. He fired over 30 rounds into the crowd and Eddie Doherty was shot in the back. He had just left his family in Turf Lodge, checking that they were okay with what had happened the night before with my father. Five other civilians, including a Catholic priest, Fr. Hugh Mullan, and a mother of eight, Ms Joan Connolly, were murdered.

I merely bring back to the committee the close proximity of what happened there. The Taoiseach stood exactly where my father was murdered. My father was shot 14 times as he lay on the ground. When I brought the Taoiseach to where my father was murdered in that incident, the Taoiseach stood at the spot and he looked across the road, because the width of the road is all the distance there was to where the 85 paratroopers were positioned. Maybe some of whom were the same ones involved in Bloody Sunday six months later. The Taoiseach stood there and he looked across, and said, "John, that is 25 yards.", and I replied, "I know." In addition, it was a bright summer's night. There was no justification for murdering any of these civilians. There was no follow-up forensics. There were no bullets. The swabs on their hands in the morgue came up all negative on involvement with any arms or gunfire. That is the investigation that we have had. Right up until today, as I stated earlier, succeeding chief constables refused to meet us and directed us to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Molloy asked what was our solution to or mechanism for this area. The inquests are good. As I stated earlier, they continue to be brought down due to resources. They are jam-packed and at present, they cannot work with their resources. There are supposed to be investigators for the coroners' courts. It has been asked for from the Attorney General in England and it still has not been put in place. They cannot go on the way they are. They need the resources and proper management to go through what we need, which is a proper inquest.

Our solution, as in the all-party motion in the Dáil this year, was an independent panel. It has been tried and tested by the Hillsborough families. It is cost-effective. We have brought it down to a cost of less than €0.5 million. To put it in perspective, it costs £40,000 for one night's security in north Belfast around the Twaddell camp. The policing for one night costs £40,000. If one adds that up over two weeks, it would more than cover investigating the deaths of 11 civilians in Ballymurphy. That is our solution. That is what we have put forward, but it was denied. As I say, it has been brought up recently with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan. Although the Government has been helpful and the Taoiseach fulfilled all his obligations for us, we need a proactive approach from the British Government, which, at present, is a Tory Government, to be really serious about dealing with the past. The British Government's record to date has been pathetic. We also need a proactive approach from the Irish Government, as an equal guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.

It must push forward on behalf of victims like ourselves and others. We need justice.

Mr. John Kelly:

Regarding our case, we had the campaign up and running. The Irish Government was very helpful. We had the help of John Bruton and Bertie Ahern, who came on board. They produced a report that destroyed the Widgery report. That certainly helped us in getting a brand new inquiry. We had it in 2010. I am sorry - the Saville inquiry was announced in 1998. Out of that came the full vindication of all of our people.

Truth commissions have been mentioned many times, but the Bloody Sunday inquiry led by Lord Saville was a truth commission. The soldiers who committed the atrocity had the opportunity to tell the truth. Things were put in place. For example, they had partial immunity from prosecution whereby they could not implicate themselves if they admitted to the murder of any of the victims of that day, but they did not take that opportunity. Everyone must participate, come forward and give the truth of his or her actions. In our experience of the Bloody Sunday inquiry, that did not happen.

Regarding the murder investigation, our belief is that the day after Lord Saville produced his report, the soldiers should have been arrested and prosecuted. Lord Saville found the truth of what happened that day, that murder happened on our streets. It is like everything else, though. It is out of our hands and we must go with the process. The Public Prosecution Service, PPS, decided to consider the report and advised the PSNI to set up a murder investigation. Believe it or not, prior to the Saville inquiry, there was never an RUC or PSNI murder investigation into Bloody Sunday. The reason we were given for this was that the then RUC and the British army made a deal over tea and biscuits that the army would investigate its soldiers while the RUC investigated civilians. In other words, Bloody Sunday was pushed under the carpet to protect the murders and the people who planned the operation.

I know the soldier who murdered my brother. I will not tell members his name, but he is known as soldier F. Soldier F murdered my brother. We know this because the bullet that killed Michael entered his stomach and embedded itself in his spine. As far as I am concerned, soldier F should have been arrested straight after Lord Saville made his report. Soldier F murdered four people in total that day. He was given the opportunity to tell the truth through the Bloody Sunday inquiry and what it had put in place to allow him to tell the truth. Truth gathering in the North would be difficult, particularly given the fact that, when people got an opportunity within an inquiry to tell the truth without incriminating themselves, they did not take it. For me, a truth commission is out. It would never happen.

Turning to the victims, I have never been asked what I want by anyone. My family has never been asked. Thousands of families have never been asked what they want. There are people sitting down and making decisions on our behalf. That is not right. We should have an input into what happens to our future and what should be done to help families get through what they are experiencing now.

It is 44 years since Bloody Sunday and many people have died. My mother and father are dead. All of the mammies and daddies have passed away. Half of the injured have died. One of the wives passed away last year. This is the situation as far as we are concerned. Including the historical investigations unit, HIU, will take another five years. They are waiting for people to die and then the problem will be resolved. That is how many of us see it. It is a question of time - wait, wait, wait and die, die, die. There will be no one left to answer to. Even the soldiers who committed the atrocity on Bloody Sunday will die some day. Hopefully not before my time, because I want to see soldier F in a court of law being prosecuted for my brother's death. If they keep putting things back, though, that will not be the situation. There will be no one left.

Ms Amanda Fullerton:

Regarding Deputy Crowe's question about incompetence in the Garda, I would love to think that it was incompetence, but I firmly believe that it was not. Our experience has been more like contempt and complicity. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a robust cross-Border liaison process between the RUC and the Garda Síochána. I had the Ombudsman's team investigate this matter for me to confirm what I already knew. Border liaison officers met on a monthly or weekly basis to deal with counter-insurgency issues, etc. They shared information on a formal and regular basis. I know who the Border officers for Donegal and Derry were.

There was a high-profile murder or assassination in the north west. The liaising was still happening and information was passing back and forth. The ombudsman is going to great lengths to uncover the exact level of information exchange. He is of the Northern Ireland authority, but this matter is incumbent on the Government of Ireland and the Garda, which has never been proactive in pursuing an investigation even at those times when the RUC pushed information in its direction. There were formal meetings, but the result was a blank. The issue was buried and went nowhere and the Garda turned a blind eye.

For us in north-west Donegal, this was happening to the backdrop of the Morris tribunal atrocities. A team of gardaí operating out of Buncrana in Donegal proactively and clandestinely buried arms caches, etc. They were subsequently investigated. I know that at least four of those who were indicted for being liars and corrupt by the Morris tribunal are key to the Eddie Fullerton investigation. It comes as no surprise that the investigation was proactively buried. I request that the Irish authorities get to the bottom of this. For some reason, this was allowed to happen in the case of Eddie Fullerton. It continues to happen.

I am grateful to the Ombudsman's inquiry in the North for digging deep into this matter and doing what it could to find out the extent and nature of the information that was provided to the Garda. At least that has established for my family for the first time some evidence that this issue did not die on both sides of the Border. Some sort of an investigation was ongoing. People were trying to uncover aspects of the assassination. We have a Garda that does not want to follow through with an investigation to this day and some committed members of the PSNI who are doing their job and providing information. We also have Border liaison officers who meet regularly. We now know that key information was exchanged at some of those meetings.

This is ongoing and forms part of the wider investigation that will conclude this year. I cannot say much about everything that I know, but we had a good and positive meeting with the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, in 2006. He assured us that there would be maximum co-operation from the Garda, his team and the North. My mother wrote to Tony Blair. She received a reply from Paul Goggins assuring her that there would be no problems and that there would be a streamlined facilitation of information exchange across the Border. For the first time, we believed that we had a green light to get real work done.

Any feedback that we received from the Garda, particularly in 1993, was to the effect that the Border presented a problem.

We now know that it never presented a problem; it just depended on who the victim was. I would say the Garda Síochána was complicit in some way in the flawed investigation that followed the murder of Eddie Fullerton.

I thank Deputy Pringle for his kind words about my father. We did have an investigative review and quite a few resources were thrown at it. I remember that at the time, in 2003 and 2004, teams of detectives were flown up to Donegal to go over and dig into the investigation. It was meant to be a review of the original investigation. After that dried up and after some campaigning, we received a report in 2006. This is the interim review to which I refer. The interim review was flawed from the outset. My father's name was misspelled on the front of it, for a start. As we mulled our way through the pages, we became so disappointed. It was half a page with double spacing. I have seen so many proper, thorough investigative reports, but this particular one was unacceptable. It is the kindest word I can say about it.

What did jump out from the review was a bit of information about ballistics about which we had never been told. Even though we knew there were convictions regarding this ballistic link to 13 other murders in the North, I had to query the detective chief superintendent and ask whether a follow-up interview with the people who were convicted was requested, but it was not. I asked whether this would be done on our behalf and I was told it would be. This is the experience I have had with An Garda Síochána. I visited Harcourt Street three times. After the meeting with Bertie Ahern, he appointed an assistant commissioner, whom I met three times at Harcourt Street. I drove those meetings. There was no proactive interplay. It was a case of me minuting them and following up the next time on whether they had followed through. To this day we have not received a report from that.

An historical investigation unit in the South would not work for my family. We have had experience of gardaí investigating gardaí and it did not work for us.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Have you spoken to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission?

Ms Amanda Fullerton:

My legal team is looking into it, but we understand it does not carry the same weight as the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland does with regard to these matters.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Has Ms Fullerton made it known to An Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice and Equality that the Garda will not co-operate with the Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland and that the Garda has not contacted you since 2009?

Ms Amanda Fullerton:

Not formally, but we are awaiting the outcome of this report. I hope to meet the Tánaiste soon.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Would it be helpful if the committee related Ms Fullerton's fears to the Taoiseach and the Minister?

Ms Amanda Fullerton:

It would be very helpful. I would really appreciate that.

We have requested a meeting with the Tánaiste and I understand it will take place fairly soon. It is a case of a lack of truth and justice, but moving forward, I think this particular case has gone on as long as all of the other cases. It is a case of "They might go away." The re-establishment of the inquest would be something on which we would insist, with a proper thorough inquest this time. The Irish Government has a responsibility under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights for the Fullerton family to receive a proper, thorough and transparent investigation into the murder of Eddie Fullerton. We have not received this to date. We will seek to have the case reviewed independently of the Garda.

Mr. Austin Stack:

Deputy Crowe asked about incompetence in how the investigations were handled. From our view, it is more than incompetence and poor Garda techniques. Approximately three weeks ago I sat down with four different families, and three of the cases were extremely similar in terms of how hard material evidence went missing, eyewitnesses were not asked to take part in identification parades, give statements or come to court, and fingerprints went missing. We represent a small group of people, perhaps 20 families, and when four of them sat down together we found that three of them had had very similar experiences in the 1970s and 1980s.

I do not believe there was specific collusion, but I believe that perhaps individuals within An Garda Síochána or the Prison Service were supportive of the IRA. Deputy Ferris mentions this in his autobiography. He states that members of the Prison Service in Portlaoise were supportive of the IRA at the time. We know that was there. I believe the Government did not want to open up this can of worms because if it had to go there it would have seen that individuals in State agencies and forces were supportive of the IRA.

Several of our cases have been to the serious crime review team, which is the cold case unit, and we have all had similar experiences. We found it to be a complete waste of time. Gardaí who are investigating gardaí and what happened back in the 1970s and 1980s do not want to be seen to cast aspersions on the investigations of their colleagues. We are taking this up in a legal forum in some of our cases. With regard to answers and solutions, there is a requirement for a public inquiry - I do not know whether it should be collective - into how some of the investigations were conducted by the Garda at the time.

With regard to what Deputy Pringle said on the public nature of truth commissions and the truth recovery process, most of those in our group have suffered public denials. Certain individuals or groupings carried out the murders of our relatives and loved ones. We have had to suffer in public with these denials. If the truth is going to come it must come in public. We can negotiate how this is done. We are not bitter or vengeful people, and we do not want to see people dragged in sackcloth and ashes, as Deputy Adams famously stated, but we do want some sort of public admission. These can be negotiated with us. As Mr. Kelly stated, we just want to be asked our views on this. Nobody has asked us. We have had the Stormont House Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement, but nobody has come to us and asked us our opinions on this or how it should work. This is the key. If we are looking for solutions and answers, we must be brought into the loop and spoken to. I echo Mr. Kelly's views on this. We all come from a very similar space on these issues.

Photo of Martin FerrisMartin Ferris (Kerry North-West Limerick, Sinn Fein)
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I thank the witnesses for their presentations, which were very informative and challenging for many. People trying to seek justice for their loved ones are to be commended and supported.

I have not written an autobiography. A biography was written about me and I certainly did not say to anybody that there were people in the Prison Service or the Garda who were supportive of the IRA. What I said was that there were people in both organisations who were humane, as there were other people in those organisations who were inhumane.

There have been victims of the conflict across this island and beyond. Maybe the reason there was conflict was that victims were created by a system, by a state, through discrimination, sectarianism, inequality and wrongs across the whole system. The most disgraceful thing of all is collusion by states who are obliged to protect citizens.

I would say very strongly in relation to the killing of Ms Fullerton's father that there was collusion and that it was covered up afterwards. That is very evident. If one looks at this State, probably the thing that jumps out at me most is that when people such as the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four were imprisoned for up to 15 or 16 years, the State lobbied internationally against people who were highlighting the injustices of their imprisonment. That is what the State did in America and beyond. It went out of its way to lobby against people who tried to get justice for people who were wrongfully imprisoned.

For truth to emerge and come to the surface, the example has to come from states. It has to come from an honest endeavour to create a framework allowing people to obtain justice. To date, that has not been forthcoming. The British State, in particular, has so much to hide in relation to its involvement in collusion, including its involvement in Bloody Sunday and the Ballymurphy Massacre, as well as many other areas in the North in which it was actively involved in killing people indiscriminately because they happened to be Nationalist, Catholic or whatever. If the State is prepared to purge the wrongs of its past, that would help in many ways to open up a whole truth and reconciliation process, but it has to lead by example.

I am a Republican and I have been part of the conflict. I am one of more than 20,000 people of my persuasion who have been through the prison system as a result of the conflict. However, I am prepared openly to say what is right and proper in regard to truth and reconciliation, because that is the only way all of us will get justice. If that does not happen and people engage in covering things up, then individuals will cover up and will continue to cover up for their own reasons. For people who are involved in politics, having been involved in organisations that were involved in the conflict, there is an obligation on all of us to do everything we can to get justice for the victims and survivors as well as honouring the memory of those who lost their lives throughout that conflict. That is the way I see it happening.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I am conscious that we are running out of time, so I will ask Senator Daly to comment.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I apologise for having to leave, but I had to deal with legislation in the Seanad. I heard the initial contributions on Ballymurphy and Bloody Sunday. I was in Belfast during the summer and met Kevin Winters and his legal team. I was inside his office and saw his filing cabinets, which contain the history of the Northern Troubles ranging from Bloody Sunday to collusion, from murders by the British army to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. I said to him that I hoped he had copies of his files, because there is no doubt that somebody somewhere would like to make his files disappear as well. On my trip I also saw the murals about Ballymurphy and the horrific story of Joan Connolly, who was shot in the face while walking, shot again at point blank range and died, leaving behind eight children. That human story, and the other stories, tell us that justice must be given to the 57 children who were left without a parent.

One of the most telling documents that I have come across in recent times was uncovered by the BBC's "Panorama" programme and related to two civil servants who stated that the Prime Minister was anxious that the next unit should operate within the law. That comment was in relation to what are best described as murder gangs, who were British soldiers dressed up in civilian clothing who drove around west Belfast and shot citizens or civilians. It is quite clear that the British Prime Minister knew that the previous incarnation of the Military Reaction Force operated outside the law, because one would not have to ask that the new unit operate within the law if one understood that the previous unit had operated within the law. That shows how high up corruption went in the political system.

The British ambassador has often attended the House for motions in the Dáil, Seanad and elsewhere in regard to the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. I have asked him, and asked some of the people who like to attend the British ambassador's tea party to ask him, for the files. If I was a country that had been accused of the biggest mass murder in the history of this State, I would like to clear my name. In such a case I would give every file I had and say that we had nothing to do with it, but we all know that the contrary is most likely true.

It is 18 years since the Good Friday Agreement and here we are. I agree with Mr. John Kelly that the powers that be are waiting for people to die. They are winding out the clock and hoping that not only will the families die off but the perpetrators will die off without ever seeing the inside of a courthouse. That is basically what the Governments are saying. Mr. Kevin Winters said to me that one in three of the victims in the North were killed either by the loyalist paramilitaries or by the British army. The loyalist paramilitaries could not have existed without the assistance and support of the British State, through either a consistent policy or a policy that was nodding agreement. That is a terrible indictment. It sounds like South America. We hear about murder gangs in South America during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and that is essentially what was happening in the North of Ireland. What they want to happen is for the files to be released on some bright and breezy day in 50 years' time, thus ensuring that justice never comes for the victims' organisations present and the other organisations. We must have justice, because there are thousands of victims, and I refer not only to those who lost loved ones. I believe future generations will also be victims, because they suffered the trauma through their parents.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I am conscious of the time and suggest that we wind up shortly. Do any of the witnesses wish to comment?

Mr. John Teggart:

I will try to cover everything that has been said. Cover-ups and agents still exist today. I agree with what Senator Daly has said about the agents. It was the British State who ran paramilitary organisations and there was collusion by state agents. Statistics indicate that only 350 people were murdered by the British state during the Troubles, which represents 10% of the fatalities, but it had a greater impact. The loyalist organisations were run, managed, armed, secured and financed by the British State, which would increase that percentage of fatalities to 40%. The British State has been involved in killings through collusion, supporting paramilitary organisations and the rest.

Deputy Martin Ferris has suggested that one should lead by example. That is the way things should be, but I have no faith in the British State leading by example. The Taoiseach has called for the files on the killing of ten innocent civilians in a van in Kingsmill. He has said that he would co-operate and do all in his power to get the files released. I do not know whether he has done so, but he has said to us that he is leading by example. Let us hope that the British State will listen and come through for us.

I will finish off with a point about the historical investigations unit, HIU, and the Ballymurphy families. I will reserve judgment on the matter. It will be a long time before any conclusion. As Mr. Kelly has said, our witnesses are dying and those who carried out the murders are dying. This tactic has been used along the way. Anyway, for people like ourselves - it applies to the Bloody Sunday families as well - there are younger people and the next generation to consider. They are asking questions and they are going to carry on the campaign. It is not only for me. We need to get answers for the next generation and bring to a conclusion what we have been campaigning for all these years.

Mr. John Kelly:

Deputy Ferris asked us to comment on state truth. We had one of the most infamous examples of a state cover-up, namely, the Widgery tribunal in 1972. It certainly suited the British Government at the time that the Widgery tribunal was put in place to deliver that untruth about Bloody Sunday. He produced a cover-up that was welcomed by the British Government at the time. That remained the case for many years, but the families never gave up. Eventually, we forced the British to reopen the case and we then got the Saville inquiry. Having said that, in the case of the Saville inquiry we never got the full truth - this was pointed out earlier. We never did and we probably never will because of the way the British state works. Those involved protect their own people before they will admit to the murder of innocent people. It is as simple as that. Those responsible in the British state wrote the book on cover-ups. They know how to do it and they will employ it many times in future as well.

Ms Amanda Fullerton:

I will leave the committee with one thought. In 2006 we were assured, at the highest level in this Government, by the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and by the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Paul Goggins, maximum co-operation to facilitate this murder investigation. That was nine years ago. We made a little headway after that but then there was no communication from the Garda. The reason the force has given information to the police Ombudsman now is that it is an open investigation. It has been an open investigation all along. I believe that this is an unacceptable excuse for a lack of co-operation, as does our legal team and the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. I am keen for some earnest thought to be given to questioning this reasoning or rationale by the Garda authorities. I would like to leave this room with some serious attempt to get to the bottom of what happened in Donegal and why the Garda was not instructed to conduct a proper investigation.

Mr. Austin Stack:

I thank the committee for having us in today. It was important for us to appear before the committee. This is first time that victims from the South have been able to come to the Dáil, talk to public representatives at the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and have our voices heard. This is really important to us.

I put it to the committee members that they should listen to the victims, take on board what we have said and bring it back to the Government. This applies especially around the area of truth recovery and the way we believe this should be done to ensure that the victims' voices are heard and that we are included in the process. We have no interest in cursory questions about what we think. We want actual input into the structures on how any truth recovery process is going to be organised.

The whole area of recognition and remembrance is important. I call on the committee to take on board what we have said on the matter, especially around recognising those who have lost their lives with a national memorial as well as some form of medal for the people who have worked in the Garda, the Prison Service and the Army during the course of the Troubles.

In the interests of justice we are looking for a full public inquiry into how many cases were not investigated properly at the time. We realise that some of them go back 20, 30 or 40 years but there seems to be a common thread running through many of the cases.

The question of support and services is important. I reiterate that there should be one victims and survivors service for the South, the North and the United Kingdom to which groups can go and from which they can get advice, help and support. Thank you very much.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Thank you, Mr. Stack. On behalf of the committee, I thank all the witnesses. Thank you for the way you have articulated your submissions, stories and powerful testimony. It has been very helpful to us and I hope we can be of help to you in future.

Mr. Teggart, I am sorry to hear about the northern delays you have experienced regarding the new inquest into the case of your loved ones. If we can be of any help, that is what we are here to do. Mr. Kelly, you referred to the ongoing PSNI murder investigations and the historical investigations unit. In the case of clearing the name of Gerald Donaghey, is there anything we can do, as a Government or as a committee, to help clear his name? It seems to be an issue. Perhaps you can talk to me afterwards. We would be only too happy to help.

Ms Fullerton, I certainly believe that we can bring your case to the attention of the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Taoiseach and perhaps the Ombudsman, if that is helpful. I realise you are taking legal advice. I am concerned that there has been no contact between the Garda and yourselves since 2009. Again, we will highlight that with the people who matter and we will do whatever we can.

Mr. Stack, the idea of a victims commission or forum to support victims and their families is worthy. A national memorial is something that should be an objective for all of us. I take your point about involvement in any decisions to be made and that you have not been asked for input. This needs to be addressed in future. It has been very powerful today.

This Government is committed to the Good Friday Agreement for Northern Ireland and to upholding the Good Friday Agreement and other agreements. The Government made a major commitment to the negotiations under the Stormont House Agreement, which contains comprehensive measures for dealing with the past. The implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement is a major priority for me, the Government and members of this committee. A successful resolution to the current talks is also a major priority. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Flanagan, is in Stormont today for talks. So much has been done in the past 15 or 20 years by people who have made major sacrifices. My job as the Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement along with other committee members is to be helpful and bring it forward. Once again, I thank all the witnesses.

Sitting suspended at 2.40 p.m. and resumed at 3.40 p.m.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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We resume in public session. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person or body outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the joint committee. However, if they are directed by the Chairman to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. Given the sensitivities of the issue being discussed today, I ask Members and witnesses to take particular note of the privilege warning.

I welcome Mr. William Devas, director, the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, Ms Bernadette Joly, spokesperson for Justice for the Forgotten and the Pat Finucane Centre, and Mr. Brian Gormally, director, Committee on the Administration of Justice, to this meeting to discuss outstanding legacy issues in Northern Ireland affecting victims and relatives. I understand Ms Joly will make the opening statement and that Mr. Paul O'Connor will answer questions on behalf of the Pat Finucane Centre. I invite Mr. Devas to make his opening statement.

Mr. William Devas:

I thank the Chairman and the committee for the invitation to speak here today. I have been CEO of the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation for the past two years. For those who do not know it, the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation was founded in 1974 as a response by people from the Republic to the violence that was predominantly happening in Northern Ireland and seeking ways to help stop that violence.

As our name, Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, suggests, peace-building and reconciliation are things we believe in and which are core to our mission statement and our vision for the future of this island. Building a lasting peace, ensuring political violence can never return and having a reconciled society are very important to us. It is in that context that I am making my remarks. The role we have played for over 40 years is to act as an impartial, non-judgmental facilitator of dialogue, allowing difficult conversations to take place between people with very different views and opinions about the political situation on this island and how we deal with legacy issues of the past and whatever other contentious issues arise. That is still the role we play today.

I was able to rearrange my diary to spend all day here to listen to what other groups had to say. Now is the time - and we cannot delay any longer - to deal with legacy issues from our violent past. It has gone on too long. It is very difficult to do, both politically and for those who are involved, be they State or non-State actors, but we have to resolve issues from the past. That has been clear from listening to individual families and groups talking about the difficulties and the obstacles they face in dealing with the past and how they are making no progress. However, as a wider society across this island, North and South, we have to deal with the past, which also involves Britain.

Truth and justice are required. People require information, acknowledgement and recognition for the suffering they have experienced. Glencree has learned over 40 years that dealing with the past is fundamental to building peace. I suspect everyone in this room wishes for a lasting peace. Time will not be sufficient to heal the wounds and help reconciliation. Trauma is passed intergenerationally and, as other witnesses said earlier, even if we just wait for people to die, other generations will pick up the baton and ask for peace, justice, acknowledgement and recognition. We have to deal with this. It is difficult for all of us but we have to find the courage to make it happen.

A second point I want to make relates to hidden legacies. Quite rightly, we hear a bit - and perhaps not enough - about individual victims and how families and groups have suffered. However, we may not remind ourselves often enough of the hidden legacies, such as alcoholism, dependence on prescription drugs, suicide, mental health problems and so on. These affect a far wider group of people and effectively result in a collective trauma and in coping mechanisms that are not healthy for society. We cannot forget these hidden legacies. If someone commits suicide because of what he or she lived through in his or her community, not because he or she was directly affected by the violence but because he or she saw it around himself or herself, who is to say that his or her family has suffered any less than some other family that was directly affected? I cannot say that. These hidden legacies are part of the issues we need to deal with and which we cannot ignore.

The third point I want to make relates to a question of silence. Given the title, I am a bit nervous mentioning this. Another legacy we have from our violent past is violence. The position with regard to violence is considerably better and the level of violence is considerably less than it was. I do not wish to claim it is anything like the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. However, there is still violence in communities. People are expelled, there are punishments, there is domestic abuse, there is sexual abuse - the list goes on. It is not acceptable. That is a legacy issue we are dealing with. The continuing violence is not named. Most people I speak to know this happens, know where it happens, probably know who is doing it and who is doing the threatening, but we do not name it. How can we, as a society, politically, name the unnameable without destabilising the massive progress we have made since 1998 and before? There is no doubt that we have made significant progress. This is also a very important legacy issue we have to grapple with. It makes it more difficult and more complicated, but we have to face up to it.

In whatever mechanisms are agreed upon to deal with the past, if that phrase is acceptable, or to deal with legacy issues, we would strongly argue that informal truth-recovery processes can be an important part of a jigsaw or a suite of options. What I mean by that is that, sadly in many cases, justice, in terms of a day in court and prosecutions, is not possible. Information recovery is catered for in the Stormont House Agreement but it would risk being soulless - "Here is a piece of paper after an investigation has been done that tells you some of what happened". It has been evident throughout the day that these issues are about emotions, soul, heart, suffering, people and human beings. Pieces of paper with lines in black do not really hit the mark. I am not saying everything needs to be informal, but informal truth recovery processes are an important part. Glencree has done some of this work in the past and we are committed to doing it in the future. I stress that it is all very much on a voluntary basis. If someone who has suffered wishes to engage with a group or someone who has caused harm then we would be very willing to help that happen in a humane way. The benefit of this is that it can allow for information and truth, or multiple truths, to emerge but it can also result in genuine acknowledgement, genuine understanding, hearing and recognition. Acknowledgement and recognition have been asked for quite a lot today. It can also potentially result in healing and reconciliation. I am not saying it is a silver bullet because this is by no means the case, but it is part of a suite of options that need to be pursued and, therefore, it must be supported, which requires resources.

I have two final points. I think Mr. Stack has already made this one for me and Ms Joly may also make it. The perception is out there that victims, or those who wish to call themselves victims, from the Republic and Great Britain are somehow less important, less well catered for or less supported than those in Northern Ireland. I do not know whether that is actually true but that perception exists and we need to be very wary of it. I wanted to raise that given that this is a predominantly Republic of Ireland committee.

My final point is a broader one. We are guilty in the Republic of Ireland of ignoring Northern Ireland. Perhaps the exceptions are some of the people in this room. We are guilty of saying "Nothing to do with us" or "I'm not interested". To Glencree, that is not good enough. The peace process is an all-island issue and an all-islands issue. It is an issue for these islands. We are a bit guilty down here of saying "This is not our issue. That is up to them and we should let them resolve it." That is not to say that we should be meddling in another state's affairs, but the Republic could play a much more supportive and encouraging role as guarantor of the peace process than it does. That would be just as relevant for legacy issues as it is for any other tricky matter in the peace process.

Ms Bernadette Joly:

Myself and Mr. O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre are splitting the presentation between us. Justice for the Forgotten, JFF, merged with the Pat Finucane Centre, PFC, in 2010 and this presentation will cover all aspects of our work north and south of the Border. Apologies from Margaret Urwin who is on leave. A brief outline will be provided on the scope and nature of the work of JFF and PFC, how many families benefit from it, the advocacy provided and the key issues for moving ahead. My name is Bernadette Joly and I was injured in the Talbot Street bombing in May 1974. After the merging of the PFC and JFF, I was invited, along with Pat Fay, to join the board of the Pat Finucane Centre to represent the interests of bereaved and injured families from the Republic.

I will first discuss the failure of the British Government to comply with Dáil motions. The British Government has continued, over many years, to refuse to disclose the relevant files relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and other cross-Border bombings of the 1970s.

They have continued to ignore two all-party resolutions passed by Dáil Éireann in 2008 and 2011 urging the British authorities to make the undisclosed documents available to an independent judicial figure. Justice for the Forgotten put a proposal to the British ambassador and officials of the Northern Ireland Office in 2013 as to how the issue might be resolved. We were due to continue discussions with the ambassador but a meeting arranged for November 2013 was cancelled at very short notice by the British side and no further meeting was offered despite efforts on our part.

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings last year, the President, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste reiterated the call to the British Government to make the files available. However, the British Embassy's response was absolute silence. The most recent information we received via the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, several months ago was to the effect that the Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, was considering how to resolve the issue. We appeal to members of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement to urge the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to bring pressure to bear on the British Government to comply with the Dáil resolutions.

I also wish to place on public record our appreciation to U2, who have focused much-needed attention on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings during their ongoing world tour by displaying photographs of the victims as a backdrop while they perform their song about the tragedy, "Raised by Wolves". The concert programme supports the call for full disclosure of the documents.

I move now to the historical investigations unit, HIU, and its implications for victims in the Republic of Ireland. Under the Stormont House Agreement, it is proposed that a historical investigations unit, which is to be totally independent of the PSNI, be established. While we would welcome the establishment of such a unit, Justice for the Forgotten is very concerned that the circumstances of the deaths of those were killed as a result of the conflict outside the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland will be excluded from this process and will not be investigated.

Under the Stormont House Agreement, the HIU will be obliged to accept all outstanding cases from the Police Ombudsman for investigation. Of the families we represent, these will include a number of cases where the victims were killed in the Republic. I refer here to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the Dundalk bombing, the Castleblayney bombing and two single-incident cases. In these cases, the Police Ombudsman’s remit is limited to investigating the role of the RUC. How will the HIU deal with these cases where the deaths occurred in another jurisdiction? Will the HIU fully investigate them or will its examination be confined to actions that occurred in Northern Ireland? We believe it will be necessary for the Irish Government to establish a specific Garda unit to liaise and co-operate with the HIU in these and other cases by providing information regarding actions that occurred in the Republic and evidence relating to the bomb sites. Justice for the Forgotten also represents families of victims where either a complaint has not been accepted by the Police Ombudsman or one has not been made due to lack of information. These cases include the Dublin bombings of December 1972 and January 1973, the Belturbet bombing and one single-incident murder. Like the other cases I mentioned, the perpetrators in all these instances came from Northern Ireland, the weapons, explosives and cars used were procured and transported from Northern Ireland and the perpetrators escaped back to Northern Ireland after each attack. Nobody has ever been charged, much less convicted, of any of these attacks.

Mr. Paul O'Connor:

I thank the Chairman and Ms Bernadette Joly. I think there was a slight misunderstanding and, for the information of people who are not aware of it, I must point out that in 2010 Justice for the Forgotten and the Pat Finucane Centre merged. Justice for the Forgotten is essentially responsible for the cases in the Republic. I am director of the Pat Finucane Centre and we are responsible for the cases in the North. I will speak briefly on that and I am conscious of the time constraints.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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That is no problem.

Mr. Paul O'Connor:

Okay. Through our offices in Armagh and Derry we are responsible for approximately 170 cases throughout the North, throughout all counties and throughout various communities. The largest number of people who approach us - and they make the decision to approach us - come from within the Nationalist or republican community, but not all. There are people from within what is called the PUL community, namely, the Protestant, Unionist and loyalist community, who approach us because of truth recovery efforts that they are engaged in.

I want to explain what the impact has been during the past two to three years and, fairly briefly, since the suspension of the Historical Enquiries Team, HET, because that has had a profound effect on many families. Many people who live outside that particular little bubble within which the non-governmental organisations are working are not aware of that fact. The suspension of the HET was brought about by a very critical report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, HMIC, which, in turn, was sparked by a critical report compiled by the University of Ulster. Quite literally, on the day of the suspension we were with HET officers who were meeting families for the very first time. Those families were lodging their complaints about the death of their loved ones on the very day of the suspension. For the first time in 30 or 40 years, they were meeting officers from some type of police investigation unit in order to try to obtain some answers and then the news came through that the unit had been suspended.

For many other families, we had a situation where HET reports that were quite problematic were issued. Our job was to go through those reports and point out the difficulties with them. There were many other families that were still in the queue and in respect of which the HET process had not even kicked in. There were at least 100 plus families affected by the fact that the reports into their loved ones' deaths were left unfinished as a result of problems that had arisen or because investigations into their cases had not even begun. We have a large number of cases - the Glenanne series of cases, of which I am sure the members are aware - which are linked to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and so on and in respect of which we have been working for many years. Even in those cases, in respect of which some very good reports have been compiled, many questions remain unanswered. There is an overarching report which we were promised by the HET but which was never completed and which is currently the subject of litigation in the courts in Belfast.

From our perspective as a non-governmental organisation, since July 2013 a very large number of families have been left waiting to see if a new body will be set up. It is very important to consider this matter from a human perspective, particularly in the context of what is happening at Stormont now and what has occurred since the suspension of the HET two years ago. These are families that have never met police officers. Following the death of their loved ones, they never met police officers. They were informed by family members, priests or others of the death of their loved ones. They have never had engagement with a police investigation. It is vitally important that some type of independent and robust investigative mechanism be established. There has been no such mechanism in place in recent years, with the exception of the Office of the Police Ombudsman. It is important to note that the Police Ombudsman can only investigate allegations relating to the RUC and not to actual murders.

Approximately 30 of the Glenanne cases are currently with the Police Ombudsman. The examination of them is due to start in November. They include the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the Castleblayney bombing and other cases relating to the Republic. Again, issues and problems have arisen in respect of these cases. Although the examination of them has yet to begin, we would be anxious that the joint committee clarify the position in respect of Garda co-operation. I am aware of the testimony given earlier by the Fullerton family. We work with the Fullerton family and I have attended meetings at which officials from the Police Ombudsman have given evidence to the effect that they simply have received no co-operation. This issue needs to be resolved and perhaps that might happen in the context of the Stormont House Agreement.

With regard to the mechanisms that have been proposed, draft legislation relating to the establishment of the historical investigations unit was published yesterday. By and large, we would welcome much of what has been put forward - we believe the families would also welcome it - in terms of some type of investigative unit that is robust and independent. However, there are issues which arise and the devil is in the detail. I suspect Mr. Brian Gormally will touch on that, on some of the issues around national security and on the matters relating to who would do the investigating. It is of absolute importance that an investigative unit such as the HIU be realised as soon as possible. Leaving aside the legal issues, while such a unit is not in place, Britain remains in violation of its obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention.

We are broadly supportive of the HIU. We think that the proposals are a good idea but it should happen sooner rather than later because there is a generation dying off. More than 50% of such deaths in the North occurred before 1976, which is almost 40 years ago, and we see, in Justice for the Forgotten and in other families that we work with, that the relatives are dying. The clock is against us.

There is also a proposal for the independent commission on information retrieval and for the implementation and retrieval group. Someone thought of a lot of acronyms when involved in their negotiations. It is our view that there has been a considerable amount of mischievous reporting on these different mechanisms. From our point of view, it is absolutely clear, there is no amnesty mechanism built into the Stormont House Agreement and it is important to nail that because that is a myth that has been put out there recently. There is no amnesty mechanism; there is a limited immunity mechanism. Limited immunity is the same mechanism as was provided to the Parachute soldiers who gave evidence in the Guildhall in Derry. They could not be prosecuted on the evidence provided in that hall; they could be prosecuted on the basis of a police investigation, which is now ongoing. The same applied to the Commission on the Disappeared; there was limited immunity. We think it was a good idea. We feel that the commission has succeeded in the sense of victims' remains and providing some closure for those families. We think that those are strengths and issues that should be pursued.

There are a number of other issues I want to touch on briefly. One is the issue of inquests. Many here will be aware of the case of Sean Brown, the GAA official kidnapped and murdered in Bellaghy in County Derry in 1997. In that case, I have been accompanying the family to preliminary inquest hearings for nine years. We have been at approximately 28 hearings of preliminary inquest. There has been a shameful delay over the past nine years. By and large, the reason for the delay is that the PSNI has failed to go through its discovery process and provide details to the coroner despite constant complaints from the most senior coroner in the North that the PSNI has not done what it is supposed to do. We have been in that room 28 times with the family, waiting for information to finally be provided to the inquest. What is happening is an absolute disgrace. I note that the Kingsmill families and many others are now in the same queue and are being held up in the same way. That is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently.

I will give a brief update on the case of Pat Finucane because, as a representative of the Pat Finucane Centre, it would be remiss of me not to do so. There has been a recent court challenge taken by the family. It did not succeed in all of the challenge it took within the judicial review but the judge found that the UK Government had not fully complied with its European Convention obligations to the Finucane family. The family are now considering its options. The inquiry that was promised as part of an agreement between the Irish and British Governments has not happened. The Irish Government kept its part of the bargain but the British Government did not. Following that legal case, the British Government attempted to impose the legal costs for those legal proceedings on the Finucane family but the judge kicked that out of court recently. I am happy to take any questions.

Mr. Brian Gormally:

I thank the Chairman and the committee for the invitation to give evidence here today. It is much appreciated as is the work of this committee. I have provided an opening statement to the committee but I will not read it all out to save time. I will pick out some crucial points from our point of view. For those who do not know, the Committee on the Administration of Justice was established in 1981 and is an independent non-governmental organisation working for human rights and we are affiliated to the International Federation of Human Rights. We take no position on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and we are firmly opposed to the use of violence for political ends. Our membership is drawn from across the community.

Today we are talking about dealing with the past. To date, there has been no overarching legacy commission or transitional justice mechanism to deal with the legacy of the conflict in this country. Instead a number of criminal justice system mechanisms have examined unresolved conflict-related deaths. Mr. O'Connor alluded to the fact that serious limitations become apparent in most of these mechanisms, which means that they have been unable to provide accountability for human rights violation and unable to meet the obligation of the UK Government to properly investigate deaths. Elements of the package have been shown not to have the necessary independence, effectiveness or impartiality to investigate state actors, in particular. Even those mechanisms which have been independent, such as the ombudsman and inquest, have faced limitations on their powers, delay or obstruction in undertaking their work.

After the failure to agree on the Haass-O'Sullivan proposals and the earlier Eames-Bradley proposals, which were immediately rubbished by the government, we now come to the Stormont House Agreement. The first thing to be said about that is that it is an agreement. Irrespective of the other bits of the agreement, the dealing with the past elements, even though they are in very broad brush terms, were agreed by the two Governments and the five major political parties. In that context, we believe that the Stormont House Agreement proposals provide the best chance to deal with the past since the Good Friday Agreement.

In our view, the proposed institutions have the potential to provide effective redress, yet the efficacy of these mechanisms will lie in the detail of how they operate. It is this that will determine whether the bunch of proposals of mechanisms will succeed in conducting human rights compliant investigations and in achieving accountability and a measure of truth and justice for victims.

This is why CAJ has co-operated with academics from Queen's University and Ulster University and individual experts to produce a model Bill and explanatory notes that would implement the Stormont House Agreement a human rights compliant manner. As human rights activists, we felt, and feel, the responsibility to put forward constructive solutions and not just sit on the sidelines criticising. These documents were launched last week in Belfast after a process of continuing consultation with civil society, the UK Government officials drafting the legislation and officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The model Bill also contains a suggested draft of the Irish-British treaty which will be necessary to establish the independent commission on information retrieval. I have sent copies of these electronically to the committee and there is also a briefing document that we have produced on the key issues that we think need to be considered in the legislative implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.

I will just pick out some of the main points here. Yesterday, we received a synopsis from the Northern Ireland Office of what the legislation will contain. It is only a few pages long and is by no means draft legislation but, unfortunately, it in some ways bears out some of our worries about the implementation.

The historical investigations unit is the key institution proposed by the Stormont House Agreement. It should provide a robust investigative mechanism that could result in criminal prosecutions and should mostly meet the UK Government's obligation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to properly investigate deaths that occurred during the conflict.

However, there are a number of vital issues - red line issues - which must be dealt with if the institution is to be effective and in line with human rights law and standards. It must have full, unfettered and unfiltered access to all relevant archives and records, whichever agency holds them. The UK Government has committed to full disclosure to the historical investigations unit but we are concerned that elements of the discredited legacy support unit of the PSNI may still be involved with the intelligence archive in some way or, worse, transferred lock, stock and barrel into the HIU. I say the discredited legacy and support unit because the problems with disclosure are holding up the inquest system, for example. The fact the unit is headed by an ex-RUC special branch officer, a post specifically created for him, destroys the potential independence of that unit.

The HIU investigators would also need to have full access to materials held by other police forces, the security service and the Ministry of Defence, wherever they are located. In the document published yesterday by the Northern Ireland Office, we are pleased to see that there will be an obligation on UK state agencies to provide any documents requested. Rather than just relying on the police powers of the HIU, there is a positive obligation.

Where there is no prosecution in a case, the HIU will provide information to families. Clearly that information will have to be redacted to avoid any concrete threat to the life of any person. However, we are concerned that the UK Government would seek a veto on the grounds of the undefined concept of national security, which would be an unacceptable restriction on the right to truth. The publication yesterday by the NIO of the synopsis of the proposed legislation confirms this. We had written to the Secretary of State about this and yesterday I received a letter from the Secretary of State’s office confirming that they will impose such a national security veto, and this of concern to us.

In order to be Article 2 compliant, the HIU must be independent. This is the absolutely crucial aspect. That means there must not be any connection between those investigating and those who might be investigated. In our view this means no former RUC, British army or paramilitary personnel should be involved with the organisation in any way. The NIO synopsis explicitly rejects this proposal for inclusion in the legislation, but it does say that the HIU must take account of the practice of other agencies in ensuring independence. In that case, we feel it should follow the policy of the Police Ombudsman which excludes former security force members from relevant investigations.

The governance of the HIU must be independent. The Stormont House Agreement says the HIU should report to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, which is, in our view, a relatively independent body but we remain concerned that there may be scope for government control through the manipulation of budgets and departmental interference. The synopsis by the NIO also makes clear that the HIU will not be accountable to the policing board when it comes to national security matters but will be accountable to the Secretary of State. While that is also the arrangement for the PSNI, it is a diminution of democratic accountability none the less.

I will not make any comments on the other institutions except to echo what Mr. Paul O’Connor has said about mischievous reporting of the independent commission on information retrieval in that it would offer amnesties. That is completely untrue. It is simply qualified privileged for the statements made. It is not immunity for the individual who might make incriminating statements.

The oral history archive is important but is of less immediate significance in human rights terms. However, it may be very important as a mechanism to allow people to tell their stories about the conflict. The Implementation and Reconciliation Group, which has a kind of supervisory function and proposes themes for independent academics to draw into narratives of the conflict, will not be included in the legislation that is going through Westminster. We believe this means it will not be taken seriously. However, it should be included in the legislation. The possibility of getting legislation about that through Stormont is probably remote. Mr. O’Connor referred to our concerns for the inquest system. We are highly critical of the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice for his refusal of a request from the policing board for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to look at the disclosure mechanisms of the PSNI. We feel this was a disgraceful decision.

On the matter of the way forward, it is now clear that the UK legislation will be laid before Parliament in October. It will require a legislative consent motion to be passed at Stormont. We are convinced that this process offers a major opportunity to deal effectively with the legacy of the past. However, the establishment of a mechanism that fails the human rights test will also fail the test of confidence of the victims and broader society. That would be worse than useless. We are committed to campaigning for a human rights compliant process, and if it is human rights compliant, to campaign for a positive legislative consent motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly. We are prepared to campaign against one which does not meet human rights standards.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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I thank Mr. Gormally. I now invite members to ask questions.

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
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It has been a long day. If I was to try to work out a common theme, I think it would be the need for justice and for people’s voices to be heard and listened to attentively. It is all about a process to deal with our collective past in a way that does not dominate the present and prevent people living in the present. The common denominator among all the witnesses here is that people’s’ voices would be heard, that questions would be answered and that there would be investigations. It has come across in the discussions that there are conflicting requests from people. Some want to see prosecutions and sentencing while others are content with answers and the investigation. How are conflicting demands or requests from people worked through?

Reference was made to the security forces, which is another conflict situation. There are members of the security forces who gave their lives in the protection of their communities and we also heard of those in the security forces who were involved in collusion.

In regard to Justice for the Forgotten meeting the British ambassador, and perhaps the British Embassy might be aware of this committee’s discussions today, was a reason given for the cancellation of the meeting and was there any follow-up? Is Justice for the Forgotten anxious for another meeting with the British ambassador? This should be on the record today.

Another common thread from today’s evidence is the delays. There are times when the Irish Government has been forward and progressive and the Northern Ireland or the UK Government have not. There have also been times when our Government has fallen behind on this.

The safety of solicitors who work on these cases is also an issue for concern. Perhaps Mr. O’Connor would elaborate on this. For those of us who have visited the North, in particular the prisons, there is no doubt that there is very little faith in the legal system in the North. Prisoners remain on remand for lengthy periods.

We see revocation of licences based on closed information so that prisoners cannot defend themselves. I see us storing up cases for the future. There will be more and more cases which may have to go to Europe. On the notion of national security being an issue, I note that on some issues, we were bounced from the Secretary of State to the Minister for Justice and Equality. It appeared to me a very easy cop out to say: "The ball is not in my court, it is in yours", which was then repeated. I do not know how one addresses that.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal South West, Independent)
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What strikes me today is that while the session is on the legacy of the past, it is actually about the present and the future for the victims' groups presenting here today. For most of them, the conflict has not ended because they are still trying to deal with, and get through, it. The focus today is on the Stormont House Agreement and the opportunity it provides. The Committee on the Administration of Justice representative gave us a briefing on the outline of the legislation, which does not augur well for the process that will develop. At this stage, the legislation does not appear to be right and there will be an uphill struggle to get legislation that reflects what is needed in the future. Is Mr. Gormally optimistic at this stage or pessimistic in relation to it and what can we do here to ensure that some of the process can be improved?

We need some sort of historical investigations unit in the South also to work hand in hand with whatever is established in the Six Counties. We have the Eddie Fullerton case, Justice for the Forgotten and the Brian Stack case. Could the Government in the South be proactive and start the process on a unilateral basis and in that way put pressure on the British Government to engage properly with the process?

Photo of Joanna TuffyJoanna Tuffy (Dublin Mid West, Labour)
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My first question relates to Mr. Devas's presentation and the point he made that there can be hidden legacies with more violence still in society, including domestic violence, and mental health problems. Is this based on research? Is there any research that backs that up? I presume it is true, but it would be good to know what research has been done into it.

I am interested in the background as to why Justice for the Forgotten and the Pat Finucane Centre decided to merge. One of the issues possibly is that there are a lot of different groups. Would it be better to pool resources? What is the experience of Justice for the Forgotten and the Pat Finucane Centre in that regard?

I turn to membership and obviously the families are involved. I am not singling out any group, but is there an understanding among most people or generally that there might never be justice? What is the emphasis? Is it on the process? It is a different context, but I dealt with a particular case which had nothing to do with the Troubles where the issue in my view was closure in relation to a feeling that there had never been a proper process. Is that something of interest to the groups before us?

Mr. William Devas:

In reply to Deputy O'Sullivan, Glencree is in the fortunate situation through our dialogue work of not having to reach agreement. On one level, it is easier for us. In many ways, we are looking to disagree but in a much better and more understanding and empathetic way. In the work we do, we do not have to find agreement between those who would like a day in court and to see someone go to prison and those who want something else. What we hope to achieve is that people have a greater understanding of what people have been through and the issues pertaining to that and to allow perceptions and misperceptions to be addressed. We are engaged in one piece of work in which there are very real concerns among the group we are working with that - the word "collusion" is not being used - a state was involved in and to blame for the way they have suffered. They have some very legitimate questions they deserve answers to. However, at the same time they have some misunderstandings. The chance to engage with a politician or someone else who has been involved in legislation and the process allows them to see that they have not appreciated something. One can strip away some of the misunderstandings to be left with the core issue. We are fortunate that we do not have to have agreement. Personally, I would not in Glencree want to turn to any victim's family or group and say: "You should not be looking for X, Y or Z". We are very careful about not having strong views. We believe that if we do not deal with the past, it will come back and bite us.

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
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I was not suggesting that sort of agreement. I was saying that if Glencree has a group of people coming with their stories and voices, how does it provide the space when they all want different things? Can that space be afforded to them?

Mr. William Devas:

It can. A lot of work is residential which provides time. One has perhaps a day and a half or two days where a group of 15 to 25 people, many of whom have very different views about the past, present and future, share meals together and have some drinks, sit in a room and have a dialogue. If it is facilitated well, relationships and understanding can, slowly, be built. Why we are a big advocate of taking time because having 20 minutes for a question and answer session at a conference does not allow one to even start or get to the humanity of a person. Someone has to give a statement and someone gives a brief answer and there is no chance of a follow-up discussion. In a residential approach, one gets a chance to do all of that. Often, what is said over coffee is just as important as what happens in the facilitated session. We argue that is vital for peace building and working with legacy issues. Legacy issues are a key strategic priority for us. We do not claim we can bring justice for people, but that dialogue approach is helpful and people find it so.

I do not think Deputy Pringle was really addressing his remarks to me. I was asking myself similar questions about there being a HIU in the South. Personally, I do not know the answer to that, but I was interested to hear the answers given. It was interesting that Austin Stack seemed unenthusiastic. However, if the Republic can in any way be proactive around legacy issues, I would absolutely encourage it as vital. I am afraid that we have in the South have been guilty of slightly washing our hands. There are exceptions, but we have done that. There are better people than me to comment on whether a HIU would address their particular needs, but proactiveness from the South would be very welcome.

I would say to Deputy Tuffy - I should have said this at the start - that my comments are based very much on what people tell us in our work. As such, what I was saying was not based on research. There are elements of research touching on a number of these issues, but I deliberately separated, although they are linked, mental health issues, dependency on prescription drugs, alcoholism and suicide from continuing violence. I know from the groups that work with us on a range of programmes that these issues come up. Domestic violence has come up a lot recently and if people feel brave enough to be able to talk about that in the safe space, they definitely link it, not solely, but in some ways to the Troubles, violence and the structures that were set up within communities. Whether that is factually correct is sort of irrelevant because if that is people's understanding of why this is happening and it is a growing problem, we have to deal with it.

On the issue of violence remaining, this is not based on research but on what we hear in our work. While I have not met anyone who disagrees that it is there, we do not speak about it publicly. How long can we be silent about it? Maybe we need to be silent. I do not know. It is very worrying.

Ms Bernadette Joly:

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked about the meeting with the British ambassador. The embassy cancelled the meeting at very short notice. Although we tried again and again to arrange another meeting, they never came back to us.

Mr. Paul O'Connor:

There was a question about possible threats to solicitors. In one firm there have been profound issues involving its solicitors, the PSNI and interviews, which have raised serious concerns. There have been threats to members of the media; two journalists at the Irish News have recently received threats. These are very worrying issues. There is no doubt that the current phenomenon whereby people are being kept on remand for long periods is deeply concerning and a serious grievance. I would not go so far as to say the legal system has not changed. I am not one of those people who think the North has not changed. It has changed profoundly. Everything has changed. The legal system has also changed. I have never known judges before. I know one, at least, now, and this is a profound change. There are very serious issues regarding the remand system.

The Stormont House Agreement is an uphill battle, and we must be vigilant. Mr. Gormally and others were involved in producing the excellent shadow legislation last week, and I recommend people read it. The conference that was unveiled was also uplifting and very positive. We have won a number of the arguments. The Chief Constable wants to get rid of legacy issues. He does not want the PSNI to deal with them and neither do we or any of the NGOs. The fact that we agree on it is positive. There will be an uphill battle regarding the security services and other issues, and we see it in Pat Finucane’s case.

On the question whether we need a HIU in the Republic, I would not give what we need a name. However, clearly there is a problem in that the original Stormont House Agreement spoke of all deaths that resulted from the conflict in the North being investigated, but this wording was recently changed to “all deaths that occurred in Northern Ireland.” Justice for the Forgotten, JFF, contacted the people in Warrington to alert them to the fact that there is a problem. Last week, I spoke to a woman at the conference whose brother was a British soldier and was killed in the M62 motorway bomb in 1974 in Britain. All those people outside the North are left out of the process, which should not be the case. While I do not want to specify the type of unit needed, we talked to the Department of Justice and Equality about it, and it is not good enough to hope that the HIU might, by leafing through papers on a particular case, come across intelligence about the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. There must be reciprocal arrangements so that people are specifically searching for information; otherwise, it will not be found. We need something clearly set up in the Garda Síochána.

The merger of PFC and JFF happened organically because we both found ourselves, at different times, searching the archives in London and finding the same research, particularly regarding the Glenanne gang, which was responsible for the murder of family members of people who are in this room and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, as Judge Barron found. We were doing the same work and we co-operated on it, which led, eventually, to a merger. It was easier from the point of view of finance, funding and governance to have one board, which is the board of the PFC, and people from Justice for the Forgotten came on board. It was a very fruitful thing to do and, while it is not for us to say what other groups should do, it made sense for us.

Across the broad spectrum of families with whom we work, there are all kinds of needs. Some families need investigative processes, which they have never had. They have a right to those processes. This need would be satisfied by a robust, independent HIU. Others we engage with are already at the latter part of the process, with a storytelling exercise called the Recovery of Living Memory Archive, to capture the memory of who the victim was from a positive point of view. We merge it with the official report and will lodge it in the National Library here in Dublin and in the North. It is a unique project to merge the official account of a death agreed by a family with the family’s view of who the person was, such as details about how the person liked to go fishing or to sing. This addresses a different type of need for families.

One can never legislate for the different needs. With one family, we are addressing an issue of how to change paternity on a birth certificate. A lady went to register the birth of her daughter, whose father, to whom the mother had not been married, had been murdered shortly before the birth. The registrar would not allow her to put the father’s name on the certificate, and we are trying to find out how this can be changed. There are all kinds of different needs in families, and the different mechanisms proposed – the oral history archive, the Implementation and Reconciliation Group, IRG, and the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval, ICIR – cater to a wide panoply of needs. Some people want justice, correctly so, and a court process. We are dealing with the only family engaged in an ongoing legal process in which a former British soldier is in court, so I will not speak any further on it. It ranges from that to other families who do not believe they will ever see that, or do not need or want to end up there because they are in a very different place. One cannot legislate. Whatever a family requests, we try to see how their needs can be addressed.

Mr. Brian Gormally:

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan raised the issue of conflicting demands. This is well recognised and has been addressed in the Eames-Bradley report, Haas proposals and Stormont House proposals, in that one could argue that there is something for everybody. There is an investigative and, potentially, prosecutorial system. There is the information retrieval commission, the oral history archive and the IRG dealing with narrative themes from the conflict. Even the HIU goes as far as it can in the direction of prosecution. After that, if it is not possible, we will give a report to the families, and it seems to be a good method.

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan also noted the delay in the justice system in the North and she is correct. While it is not like it was during the conflict, there is still an unacceptable delay in remands, particularly regarding non-mainstream republican elements who are accused of terrorist offences. Delay is endemic in the terms of the disclosure in inquests. There are all kinds of issues of people being off sick or needing training. We have done a comprehensive, exhaustive analysis of the existing measures, and at the end we went back to the beginning and called that compilation the "apparatus of impunity", which is what it amounts to. The report, like others, is available on our website.

Deputy Pringle said what had come out so far did not augur very well for the Stormont House Agreement. Mr. O'Connor is correct that we have already won some things - for example, I mentioned the obligation on State agencies to provide documents and archives to the HIU. It is not perfect, given that presumably the HIU will have to ask for documents, and one does not know what is there if one does not know what is there.

There will be an issue, particularly with the secret security service, MI5, and its activities. The national security veto to which I referred to is a very negative development but it is onward disclosure from the historical investigations unit, HIU. It does not come between government records and the HIU investigators. At least, it should not. While it is negative, it does not necessarily compromise the effectiveness of an investigation.

There are many other issues. As I said, we want to be able to support this because we think it is the best chance in a generation. If it is not human rights compliant, it will be worse than useless. If that is the way legislation turns out, we will oppose it.

What could be done here? It is pressing on some of those really crucial issues, in particular the question of independence. We would like the independence of the HIU to be guaranteed on the face of the legislation. It does not look like this will happen, however. In a sense, we will have to reserve judgment on that to actually see how it operates in practice. As I said last week at our conference, it is a question of eternal vigilance when it comes to the implementation and practice of these institutions.

On the question of a HIU in the South, Mr. Paul O’Connor is quite right. A consultative document published earlier on this year stated the deaths that were to be investigated were restricted to those occurring within Northern Ireland. We only got the actual updated material yesterday. In my quick flick through it then, I did not notice any mention of a unit for the South. There were some issues about not being able to give the HIU extra-territorial jurisdiction. That is, of course, true but it does not stop one opening an investigation and asking for co-operation from the place where the deaths actually occurred - for example, if the planning and the people were all from the North but the deaths occurred in the South.

As for the question as to whether there should be a HIU in the South in terms of co-operation with the Northern HIU, as far as I understand it there is a suggestion that the existing security co-operation arrangements will be adequate for security co-operation between the HIU and a special unit that is to be set up in the Garda Síochána. Whether the latter is called the HIU is another matter. It is not an official proposal but what has been discussed.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Will that be on a cross-Border basis?

Mr. Brian Gormally:

It will be more a unit in the Garda to co-operate with and give information to the HIU in the North and vice versa. That would probably be helpful rather than it just being a general Garda function.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Does Mr. Gormally have any insight as to how cross-Border investigations could be carried out?

Mr. Brian Gormally:

We are a Northern Ireland based organisation. While we have been talking to Ruairí de Búrca, among others, in terms of the development of the work we have been doing, we have not tried to prescribe for the South. Obviously, UK legislation cannot prescribe what the Irish State does. However, it is worth looking at closely as to whether the existing security co-operation legislation and arrangements will be sufficient to involve the fullest backwards and forwards co-operation and disclosure of documents and so on. It is not an issue on which I can pronounce but it does need to be examined.

With regard to Deputy Tuffy’s question on sexual violence caused by the conflict, there is anecdotal evidence of that. Professor Monica McWilliams, who used to head the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition, did work several decades ago on sexual violence in the North, including conflicted-related. She is actually at the beginning of a new major study looking back at this. Rights Watch (UK), which used to be called British Irish Rights Watch, under its director Yasmine Ahmed, is starting a project looking at conflict-related sexual violence.

Photo of Seán ConlanSeán Conlan (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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What was Ms Bernadette Joly’s personal experience in the Republic of victim support services? What kinds of supports were available? We heard earlier there were little or no supports for the victims in Dublin-Monaghan, Dundalk, Castleblayney or Belturbet or for Austin Stack or the Fullerton family.

Would the establishment of a historical investigations unit in the Republic be important? Would the delegations prefer to see prosecutions, if they were still possible, of anyone from the Glenanne gang involved in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings? I am never happy to say this but I do not think there is any possibility that the British Government will admit it was involved in state-sponsored terrorism in another jurisdiction in the EU. In my lifetime, I cannot see that happening.

The unfortunate position is, what do we do in the Republic? It is all very well for cross-party calls for the British Government to release documentation. I do not see that happening, however. I do not see it ‘fessing up that it was involved in terrorism in the Republic of Ireland and in the North. It is certainly not going to happen in the next 20 or 30 years? What do we as legislators in the Republic do in starting investigations into the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and the incidents in Belturbet, Dundalk, Castleblayney, as well as the other cases to which I referred earlier? How can we be proactive in getting our security forces to release all the information they have at their disposal so we can carry out our own investigations rather than expecting the British Government to do something it is not likely to do?

In any part of the democratic world, it should not be expected that solicitors defending clients would be under threat from state forces or actors. It is important the Pat Finucane issue is resolved. Anyone involved in the legal profession, acting in their clients’ best interests, must feel free to go about their work without fear of intimidation or worse. Everyone in society should be concerned about ensuring there is a resolution to the Pat Finucane case. It is not just an Irish issue but a global one.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I thank our visitors for their presentations. Mr. Gormally referred to the British Government being open to full disclosure to the HIU. I hope he is correct and it turns out that way. I would not be overly optimistic about this.

On the subject of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, a number of us had an opportunity to contribute to debates and vote in the Dáil on two occasions, in July 2008 and May 2011, when there were all-party motions unanimously calling on the British Government to give access to an independent international legal person to the papers on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The response of the British Government to date has been abysmal and I know that successive taoisigh and foreign affairs Ministers, as well as Deputy Micheál Martin on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party, have met the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the British Labour Party spokespersons on Northern Ireland. It is one of the issues we continually raise with them. We have also raised with the British ambassador the need to respond to the request for meetings with the Justice for the Forgotten group. The response has been most disappointing and I sincerely hope there will be a different attitude from the British Government and its agencies to disclosures to the historical investigations unit.

Am I correct in thinking the personnel attached to the historical enquiries team are former police officers from England, not former RUC or PSNI officers? I have read Anne Cadwallader's book, Lethal Allies, which is based on the work of the Justice for the Forgotten group. A lot of the facts outlined in the book are based on the work of the historical enquiries team and it is a shame its work was not continued. We know of terrible atrocities and that 120 lives were lost because of collusion between British and Northern Ireland state forces and murderous gangs in Northern Ireland over a few short years. It is absolutely essential that the historical investigations unit be independent and that the personnel who carry out the work be at a remove from the situation in Northern Ireland in the past. We will not make any progress unless we have that basic modus operandi.

Mr. Devas made a point about informal truth recovery, which has huge merit. If there are formal truth recovery processes but people do not want to co-operate or choose one route over another, can they avoid making a contribution? Can they take the informal route if their co-operation is needed for the formal process? I can see merit in having a formal route, but we would want to think it through very clearly.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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A couple of things have struck me over the course of the day and they came up again during Ms Joly's presentation. I do not ask this to be a smart aleck, but why is there a reluctance to support victims of the conflict in the State? We support groups in the North but not in the South. I do not know why but perhaps the delegates might fill us in. We seem to have a partitionist approach, with huge sympathy for groups and individuals in the North, but when something happens here, the State does not respond. We heard other speakers talk eloquently about how they had felt left behind or were the subject of incompetent investigations. Justice for the Forgotten had the same problem or difficulty with funding before it merged with the Pat Finucane Centre. Why?

People said certain things were not part of an amnesty, but, of all the participants in the negotiations, who is actually looking for an amnesty? As far as I am aware, the only one looking for an amnesty is the British Government, for its own troops who have never served a day in jail on account of their activities. There was co-operation at the height of the conflict between the Garda and the RUC and we are in a new era, a new beginning, but we do not seem to have the same structures and mechanisms whereby the PSNI and the Garda can co-operate to resolve these issues. This also seems to be a contradiction.

My last point concerns how we treat victims. There was mention of the disappeared and people were asked to continue to come forward with information, but it is strange that, even within that group, people were treated differently by the State in terms of supports. Seamus Ruddy was killed in France and there was not the same support for his family as for all of the others. That shocked me when I met the family because I thought everybody was in the same position and received support from the British Government, the Irish Government and political parties but no, the family was cut off from these supports. I do not know if this issue has been resolved to this day. The structure has evolved in this way and it is understandable people feel angry and frustrated. One group stated it did not agree with certain terminology, but what terminology do they want? What are the phrases we should use? We are dealing with the past and the present, but it seems there are political phrases people do not like. Are there phrases on which the victims' groups all agree?

Ms Bernadette Joly:

Deputy Seán Conlan asked me how I had been dealt with in the aftermath of the bombing. I was dealt with in the same way as everybody else. I was totally ignored and nobody from the Garda or the Government ever contacted me. I applied for criminal injuries compensation and received some, although not very much, but nobody ever contacted me and I do not know why.

Photo of Seán ConlanSeán Conlan (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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During the years has any State agency given any help whatsoever? Has Ms Joly had to look for services herself at all times?

Ms Bernadette Joly:

Luckily enough, I did not need any medical attention. The only thing was the Remembrance Commission, to which victims could apply for some compensation. I did that and got a little bit from it. It was not called "compensation" but an "acknowledgement". Other than that, there was nothing.

Photo of Seán ConlanSeán Conlan (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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To deal with the issue now, would Ms Joly prefer a historical investigation or prosecutions, if there was to be any prospect of them?

Ms Bernadette Joly:

I do not see that they counteract each other. There could initially be an investigation and, if there was enough evidence to bring a prosecution, it could go ahead. If not, there could just be a report. I do not see that they are mutually exclusive. I imagine that they could go together.

Mr. Paul O'Connor:

I will not deal with the issue of support services. On the question of how the Republic has dealt with the North, or not dealt with it, the South stopped dealing with it in May 1974 because it was sent a very clear message to stop worrying about it.

That is what the Dublin and Monaghan bombings were about. The warning was to leave the North alone: "Do not to talk about it, or else it will spill over to your jurisdiction." This was the warning shot and just the beginning of it. That is my personal view. I think that was the message intended and I think it worked.

In terms of some of the other issues, it is not an either-or situation with the HIU in terms of prosecution. The HIU is, first and foremost, a police unit whose job it is to attempt to gather evidence and, if possible, prosecute. That is its job and that is the mechanism within the Stormont House Agreement in which we are most interested, because most families want to see a proper investigation. Some investigations were carried out by the HET, which were excellent. We felt, and have said so publicly, that the senior investigating officers who were responsible for the Glenanne case were people of the highest professionalism, and they delivered and were very good. They assisted us in the recent court challenge in Belfast. The retired officer responsible for the Glenanne cases came over and provided an affidavit. I have also seen HET cases that were absurd, ridiculous and hurtful. There were particularly serious flaws in terms of British army cases. The HET was both good and bad; it produced a mixture of things. There were people in it who were able to do their job - there is no doubt about that - but what is needed is a body that can win back confidence in terms of providing independent investigative processes.

One point I wish to emphasise is that some people portray dealing with the issue of the North as almost impossible. It is absolutely not impossible. It is not rocket science. What we need are mechanisms that work. Even when we talk about what is needed in the Republic, if one considers the level of co-operation that would take place today as a matter of course between the PSNI and the Garda, that is simply what is needed when it comes to past investigative processes. They did go on in the past. I read declassified documents in our office yesterday, along with Alan, related to the fact that the Garda supplied the details of 2,000 cars within a short period to the Vengeful computer of the British army by mid-1976 to have them checked. Therefore, the Garda was using the British army's computer even then. These are declassified documents from the Minister for Defence. If they were capable of that of co-operation at that time, surely they are capable of it today. I do not think it is rocket science.

On the issue of an amnesty, I do not believe there is an amnesty in the Stormont House Agreement at the moment. There is a problem in that only four British soldiers have ever been convicted of murder. In the Dáil there was a unanimous motion on one of those cases, in which the soldiers were allowed back into the British army, and that has caused profound disquiet in the North. I saw the same happen recently.

In terms of definitions of victims and who is a proper victim and so on, we had a discussion in the office about this recently. Clearly, what happened with the disappeared worked. That process worked and was a valuable process for the families. It is interested to look at who is a proper victim. It appears that if a member of the IRA is killed, he or she is only a proper victim in some people's eyes if he or she was killed by the IRA. There is a widespread acceptance that most of the disappeared were proper victims, as I believe they were, but most of them were members of the IRA. Because they were killed by other members of the IRA, Unionists accept them as victims, but they do not otherwise. It is a very curious way of doing things.

There is also the terminology of innocence. We always say in the centre that we do not work with people who died but with their families. Their families are always innocent. Irrespective of what organisation their sons, daughters or relatives were in, the family is always innocent in the sense that they have a legal and moral right to information. I have two statistics about the issue of innocent victims that may be interesting. Lost Lives, the definitive study of victims from the Troubles, indicates that loyalist paramilitaries killed approximately 1,200 people, the vast majority of whom were civilians within the Catholic community, while the IRA and other Republicans killed some 1,800, of whom more than 1,000 were members of the security forces. So the IRA killed some 600 civilians in bomb attacks and other incidents, while loyalists killed twice as many from a smaller community base. Yet when we use these terms about civilian deaths, we do not actually recognise that over all the years of the conflict, there were only three years in which the greatest number of civilians killed did not come from the Catholic community. The majority of people killed each year were Catholic civilians. It is wrong to differentiate between those who were innocent, guilty, civilians, members of the security forces, members of the IRA and members of loyalist groups; their families are all the same, and they all have a right to information and to justice.

Mr. Brian Gormally:

I will speak briefly on some of the points raised. Deputy Seán Conlan asked whether we thought the UK would fess up. Deputy Brendan Smith was saying, more or less, good luck with full disclosure.

Photo of Seán ConlanSeán Conlan (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I know.

Mr. Brian Gormally:

The UK has been involved in wars for most of its existence and colonial adventures right up to the present day. I do not expect that we will have complete disclosure of everything that goes on. It is interesting to see what has actually been declassified, and particularly the pattern of consent for public records and so on. Even the documents that have slipped through the built-in process are quite illustrative of some extremely dodgy practices. All we can do is argue for a stronger legislative base for disclosure. We cannot guarantee that State agencies will not stand outside the law. I suppose if one is being cynical one would expect that to a certain extent. All we can do is push and push. What we will get in the legislation is probably not as strong as would like to get in terms of an overall mechanism. Connected to that was the question of what the South can do here. Deputy Seán Conlan talked about disclosure. I think there is a big role in leading by example. If the Irish State says it is prepared to open the books, effectively that throws into sharp relief any reluctance on the part of the UK, which, I think, has probably got a lot more to hide, if it does not do the same.

Again, what could we do here? Deputy Brendan Smith mentioned the necessary independence of the personnel involved in the HIU and included the HET in that connection. One of the issues that has been raised by Government sources in discussions around this whole issue is the difficulty they reckon they will have in recruiting sufficient investigators. They point to the fact that the Police Ombudsman has had a bit of difficulty in recruiting sufficient numbers of people. That is partly because budget cuts and so on mean they will only offer short term contracts to people who are relocating from places such as England, and that makes it difficult. If one pays enough money one will get the investigators. The HIU, in principle, would be open to secondments, including from the Garda Síochána. It seems to me that people could be encouraged to apply and for that to be made a fairly easy process. I have no idea how many would get the positions or what the fallout of that would be. In principle, gardaí could apply to become investigators, but on the basis of secondment so that they would not have to leave their existing careers behind. That is an issue that might be looked at.

Deputy Sean Crowe asked about terminology. The Deputy knows as well as I do that terminology is perhaps one of the most contested things in terms of looking at the conflict. Personally, I do not like the term "dealing with the past," even though in a certain sense it is accurate because, from our point of view, what we say is that we are dealing with current human rights violations by the British state in not fulfilling its obligations under Article 2 to carry out proper investigations. That is a current violation.

It is not to do with the past as such, even though the events that need to be investigated are in the past. Therefore, the terminology a person uses depends on which side he or she comes from and what his or her concerns are. From a human rights perspective, we are dealing with current violations rather than something that is to do with the dim and distant past.

Mr. Paul O'Connor:

It was remiss of me not to respond to Deputy Conlan's other comment. Mr. Gormally reminded me of the Deputy's point, which I had also noted. While I recognise that this will be an uphill struggle, no one imagined we would be in a position where the British Prime Minister would describe Bloody Sunday as unjustified and unjustifiable and that he would stand up in Parliament and state that agents of the state had colluded in the murder of Pat Finucane. However, he did so and he also met Geraldine Finucane in 10 Downing Street where he accepted there had been collusion in her husband's murder, before contradictorily stating he could not allow an inquiry into the murder because there were too many people in nearby buildings who would not allow it.

In many ways, I believe we have won many of the battles. I am by nature a person who believes the glass is half full. We have won the battles and now need to identify what types of mechanisms will be established to deal with them. Nevertheless, I am not hopelessly naive. The documents are there and a number of them, particularly some pertaining to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, worry people in Whitehall. The efforts made by this State have served to put the issue on the agenda and have shown that the problem has not gone away. These need to continue.

I also believe the issue with regard to U2 is helpful. The band will soon play concerts in London where the audience will be faced with questions about an atrocity many of them will never have heard of and a programme which states the British Government should release the files. It is important that the joint committee and the Oireachtas press the British on the issue of these documents. The British Government has done things in the past couple of years we did not believe it would do.

Photo of Seán ConlanSeán Conlan (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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Will Mr. Gormally expand on the point he made about remand prisoners in the North? He expressed concern about the number of prisoners on remand. Will he elaborate on the position?

Mr. Brian Gormally:

During the conflict, there was, after formal internment ended, what people called - I believe justifiably - internment by remand when individuals, usually republicans, were remanded for two years and longer. This could be viewed as a way of taking people off the streets rather than as part of the criminal justice system. Another question of terminology arises with regard to whether one describes non-mainstream republicans as dissidents. In any case, people who are political opponents of the peace process or who support those who are involved in armed actions against the peace process argue that their people are currently being interned by remand. While I do not believe this is occurring on the same scale or for the same length of time as it did during the conflict, we have had complaints around the issue. While not every complaint is justified and not every cause is sufficient to argue that these are massive breaches of human rights, none the less it is concerning that people are being held for long periods on remand, during which it emerges consistently at hearings that the police have not prepared evidence and so on. This is an issue we keep an eye on. While I would not say it is a huge issue at present, it does not inspire confidence in the criminal justice system and what we want is to have confidence in the criminal justice system on the basis that it is human rights compliant. If people were being remanded for long periods unjustifiably, that would be a human rights violation.

Mr. William Devas:

I will make two points in responding to Deputy Brendan Smith's question about informal truth recovery. Truth recovery has often resulted from prosecution and traditional justice, in other words, where a person has served a term of imprisonment. The implication is that the person has been involved in paramilitary activity because, as we heard, very few, if any, state forces have served time for what occurred in the conflict. Therefore, there may not necessarily be legal issues. One may have someone who has suffered as a result of the activity of a person or a group and wants to have more information rather than simply seeing that a person was guilty. In such cases, one facilitates conversations between the person and the persons involved or another individual acting as a proxy. This can contribute to healing and reconciliation, although it is by no means for everybody and should be done voluntarily. It has proved very helpful for some people in their personal journey of healing and reconciliation.

The Deputy raises a very important question and sensible point regarding cases where some people believe the person with whom one is dealing should have been prosecuted or where a case may still be taken. As the CEO of an organisation that fundamentally believes this process is absolutely vital for humanity and reconciliation when both parties wish to avail of it, I am also aware there are real legal difficulties. Could one legislate for limited immunity for informal processes as well as formal processes? I do not know the answer to that question but it is a very good one that needs to be considered very carefully.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Mr. Devas stated that suffering can be at a community level where there is collective trauma. Have there been any successful community approaches in Northern Ireland that have addressed this issue? How can the issue be addressed?

Mr. William Devas:

That is where the rubber hits the road. The Glencree centre did a joint piece of work, entitled Journeys Out, with the International Conflict Research Institute at the University of Ulster - INCORE, Intercomm Ireland and the Peace and Reconciliation Group from Derry. It examined how people deal with the past, and one of its findings was that community responses are needed. These means looking at local communities and identifying their strengths and abilities to deal with issues and the collective trauma they have suffered. I am not aware of how much further the idea has been taken in terms of identifying what sort of process communities could implement. The point I was trying to make is that individuals and families have suffered but the suffering has been much more widespread. There are many people living with trauma who may not have a loved one listed in Lost Lives or who may not feature in a list of injured but are traumatised as a result of what happened in their communities. A collective response is, therefore, needed. Some African societies would take a much more community orientated approach to dealing with this issue based on the idea, "Your trauma is my trauma". We are a much more individualistic society and tend to focus, perhaps naturally, on the individual. I do not claim to know the solution but there are some areas where a community approach would be beneficial. I do not claim that Glencree or any other organisation has worked out how to do this, although I know where we would start, namely, by getting communities together to start talking about how they would deal with it collectively.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Did the British Government give any reasons for not having the proposed implementation reconciliation group enshrined in legislation? Mr. Gormally stated that its failure to do so risks making its establishment, powers and duties political footballs down the road. What precisely did he mean by that comment?

Mr. Brian Gormally:

The British Government has not given any reasons. There are two reasons this is Westminster legislation. One is that part of it deals with non-transferred matters, that is, matters that have not been devolved to Stormont, for example, national security and so forth. It was always the case that part of the legislation would have to go through Westminster rather than Stormont. The second reason is that one would never get this legislation through Stormont because every clause would be the subject of argument and Nationalists and Unionists would not agree, clause by clause. On the other hand, the legislative consent motion that will be required is a "Yes" or "No" to the whole package and I believe such a motion has a very good chance of being passed. From our point of view, it must be human rights compliant. The implementation reconciliation group, IRG, does not require to be at Westminster. The document the Northern Ireland Office published yesterday indicates that it is not intended to put this in legislation but that the NIO stands ready to support Stormont in whatever it chooses to do.

I do not know whether there is a certain lack of interest in the IRG on the part of the UK Government because it will have a politically appointed membership. I do not know whether the UK Government believes issues or themes such as collusion or gender are a matter for the locals rather than the rest of the United Kingdom. I do not know, but it is certainly part of the package. On the question of developing themes or narratives about the conflict, I do not believe there will ever be one agreed narrative. Examining different themes and engaging with independent academics and so on comprise a long-term, important function. It is our view that it should be included in the legislation; otherwise it will be kicked down the road to Stormont, which may find great difficulty in legislating for it.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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On behalf of the committee, I thank all of the delegates for attending. I thank all of the committee's staff and the members of the public who have attended in the Visitors Gallery. I also thank the members of the committee. As I stated, this series of meetings has been very informative and highly productive. It has concerned an issue that is of profound significance to the peace process, future peace and genuine reconciliation in Northern Ireland. It is intrinsic to fully implementing the Good Friday Agreement, a the function of this committee. I will send a letter to the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Defence with transcripts of the meetings. The letter will ask for a comprehensive response on the important issues raised at our meetings and the responsibility of the respective Departments involved. It will ask the respective Ministers to liaise with their counterparts in the House of Commons and the Northern Ireland Assembly in addressing the issues addressed at our meetings. One aspect will involve asking the British embassy why the meeting was cancelled. We will try to schedule a meeting as quickly as possible. We will seek a meeting under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement or through the auspices of the Taoiseach. The response of the committee should incorporate the views of the British and Northern Ireland Ministers. I again thank everyone for attending.

The joint committee adjourned at 5.25 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 22 October 2015.