‘We feel let down by our politicians’ - local IRA victims speak out

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MID-ULSTER victims of IRA violence have said they feel ‘let down’ by unionist politicians.

The comments were made at a public meeting held in Cookstown’s Royal Hotel on Friday night by Ulster Unionist councillor Robert Kelly.

Around 13 people attended, most of whom were seriously injured or who had lost a loved one due to IRA violence.

Also in attendance was former UUP leader Tom Elliot, MLA Sandra Overend, party colleague Trevor Wilson and victim’s campaigner William Frazer.

Among the issues raised were Coroner Case inquests, Libyan compensation money, and the role of local politicians in fighting for victims’s rights in central government.

Discussions also took place on setting up a bona fide Mid-Ulster group to fight for local victim’s issues at Stormont.

Many of those present expressed disappointment on the role of unionist politicians in helping in the fight for justice, help and support for those left behind by the Trouble’s.

Speaking during the two-and-a-half hour meeting, Cookstown man Joe Bell, who lost-two thirds of his hearing when an IRA bomb exploded outside his Monrush home in 1991, said Protestant people felt they “could not trust” today’s unionist parties.

“I am sitting here tonight an innocent civilian victim of the Troubles who has lost two thirds of my hearing,” he said.

“The reason Sinn Fein/IRA are so popular is because they are all singing off the same hymn sheet.

“I’ve watched the UUP’s the DUP’s on the box. On the box they sing the tune that the people want to hear but when the box closes down and it’s off, they go back to their dirty tricks. They are not going to help me. I know people who have went to the other side of the house to get the help they need.”

Mr Bell added: “Who can the Protestant people trust? Who can they trust in this present day in 2012? Because they have heard it all before.”

Magherafelt man Hazlett Lynch, whose brother was murdered during the Troubles, said he felt the actions of today’s unionist parties had “offended” victims.

Speaking to UUP MLA Tom Elliot, Mr Lynch said: “I think the biggest problem is that the fact that the victims of terrorism have been betrayed by our unionist parties, in opening the door to allow Sinn Fein into government.

Mr Lynch added: “Why is there no one within the unionist political family prepared to say we are not going to work with Sinn Fein one day longer? Because everyday Tom that your party and the other crowd, every day that you bolster up that outfit in Stormont is a day that you are offending me and you are offending every innocent victim of terrorism.”

Another local woman present, whose father was murdered in 1977, said more action needed to be taken by government in helping ‘single identity cases’.

She said: “The single identity cases have been forgotten about, I have spoken to widows and other people over the years and it just seems that they don’t want to know anymore. They are still traumatised 30 to 40 years on.”

Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR) Director William Frazer said it was evident that victims across Northern Ireland felt similar, but said it was a necessity for better victim representation at central government level.

Mr Frazer said: “People feel that they have been let down many times, they need someone to stand up and fight. If you don’t stand for what you believe in, what do you stand for?

He added: “We need to put to the side, the DUP, Ulster Unionists, all that needs to go.”

“We need to come together for the reason we were murdered and what we stood for and that was to hold law and order and defend our community. And whenever we start thinking like that, who is better than the other, those days need to go, because if they don’t folks, Martin McGuinness, I’m surprised he hasn’t got the Nobel Peace Prize because he is the best thing since sliced bread. Why? Because no one is asking questions.”

Former UUP leader Tom Elliot urged those affected by IRA violence to place pressure on local politicians so that more money is directed from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) to support victims.

A follow up meeting on the issues raised by those present has been scheduled for the end of September where discussions will continue on the possibility of setting up a Mid-Ulster group.