The achievements of 11 outgoing members of the Victims and Survivors Forum were celebrated at a farewell dinner in Belfast on Thursday 9th March.
Pictured L-R: Violet Craig, Fiona Kelly, Stephen Gault, Mitch Bresland, Liz Clarke, Ann Travers, Irene Kerrigan, Jennifer McNern, Alex Bunting, Judith Thompson, Jeff Smith, Peter Heathwood. Missing from photograph: Jude Whyte.
The Victims and Survivors Forum was set up in 2009 and has been a key part of the consultative function of the Commission for Victims and Survivors. The individual members of the Forum work towards one common purpose - that the events of Northern Ireland’s past should never happen again.
Five of the individuals honoured had been on the Forum since its inception in 2009, while seven members had participated since 2012. During their tenure, the members were involved with many high profile figures from the world of politics, academia and the peace and reconciliation movement, both locally and internationally. Their views and those of their fellow Forum members have informed policy and advice to government, as well as contributing to wider research projects.
In addition to their contribution to the Forum, eight of the outgoing members achieved a Level 4 Diploma in Working with Victims, Witnesses and Survivors through Skills for Justice.
Speaking at the event in Titanic Belfast, the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors Judith Thompson paid tribute to the individuals:
“The Forum has been a rich conversation between people from diverse backgrounds in pursuit of a common purpose – that is, ‘it should never happen again’. Many people claim to speak for victims, but this Forum is the voice of victims, those who believe that there should be ‘nothing about us without us.’ These individuals have been key influencers in creating the institutions detailed in the Stormont House Agreement – those that address victims’ needs."
The Commissioner continued:
“The impact of their contribution is immeasurable. Collectively, their voices informed policy and changed services for victims and survivors for the better. Issues such as how welfare reform will affect victims and survivors, advice papers on services to victims and survivors, the trans-generational impact of the Troubles on victims and their families, a pension for the severely injured, dealing with the past, future funding and provision of services and support, and much more.”
The Forum membership will be replenished with new members who will be announced in late March.
The 11 outgoing members are: Alex Bunting, Peter Heathwood, Jennifer McNern, Jude Whyte, Violet Craig, Irene Kerrigan, Fiona Kelly, Ann Travers, Mitch Bresland, Stephen Gault and Liz Clarke. The contribution of Jeff Smith, who retired from The Forum in 2016, was also recognised.