The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Judith Thompson has announced 10 new members of the Victims and Survivors Forum to fill the current vacancies with immediate effect.
The appointments have been made from a panel of 55 victims and survivors who expressed an interest in supporting the Commission in widening its engagement with victims and survivors through an open and widely advertised public process held earlier this year.
The remaining 13 members of the Forum who have served an additional two years to their original term have agreed to remain until March 2017. At that time a further 14 members will be appointed from the remaining panel.
All new appointments will run until September 2019 to match the Commissioner’s term of office.
However, as people may leave the Forum for various reasons during that time the panel will remain as a source of new members and they will naturally be included in the wider work of the Commission.
Welcoming the new members and thanking them for their commitment to advise her and to reflect on their lived experience in order to help improve outcomes for all victims and survivors, Judith Thompson made it clear that the appointments were based solely on balancing the representation of the current Forum.
Current members of the Forum had identified victims or survivors of state violence and those from the Loyalist/Protestant working class community as being the most underrepresented.
In order to convene a Forum that is broadly representative of victims and survivors lived experience, the Commissioner considered demographics such as: community background, gender, age, geographic location, origin of harm and the definition of a victim as detailed in the Victims Order (NI) 2006 to include those who have been psychologically and physically injured, those who have been bereaved and their carer’s.
Speaking as the new members of the Forum were announced, the Commissioner also paid tribute to the work of those members who have completed their service.
"I want to pay tribute to the tireless work of those members of the Forum who have served since 2012. They could not have known then the level of responsibility that would rest on their shoulders nor the immense contribution they would make on such seminal events such as the Haass Talks, the subsequent Stormont House Agreement and all of the work that has gone into our work on services for victims, research and advice to Ministers in particular the consistent lobby for a pension for the severely injured. The leadership they have shown and their dignified approach to being disappointed time after time by political procrastination, is matched only by their determination to use the pain and hurt they have endured to be a positive and proactive force for good in building a shared future. Their advice to me on behalf of all victims and survivors has been clear and consistent. They want to be heard and they want actions not empty words of sympathy. They want their sacrifices for peace to be recognised in the form of concrete acknowledgement, reparations and the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement to deal with their legacy issues. That is the baton they have passed on to our new members who will be ably supported by the 13 members who have so selflessly agreed to stay on until March next year to ensure a seamless transition. As a society and as a community we pay tribute to them, to the pain they have endured and the compassion they have shown in giving their time to us, at great personal cost. The challenge for our new Forum is to finish the task of dealing with the past and take us into the completion of our task to build for the future".Judith Thompson, Commissioner