Proposed Legislation May Help Provide Answers to Bereaved Families in the South of Ireland

The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors Judith Thompson said she hopes some of the legislation proposed to deal with the past may help families in the south of Ireland as well as in the north gain acknowledgement for their loss.

Speaking to RTE Radio’s This Week programme this weekend, Ms Thompson said she had met families and survivors of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings who are part of the Justice for the Forgotten group,and that those families are “fundamentally seeking honesty and acknowledgment.”

Ms Thompson was asked what hope she could offer to those families in the south of Ireland who are suffering harm and loss: Hope is a really difficult word to use for people who’ve been trying for decades to get information which in normal circumstances they would have trusted a justice system to give to them,” she told presenter Colm Ó Mongain.

“It’s very hard to properly convey the sort of harm and distress and loss of faith in justice and government that happens when people suffer that kind of terrible harm, and then find that things they would normally have expected…that it’s investigated, that somebody will maybe say ‘we apologise and it shouldn’t have happened’ and that they get help to live their lives the best they can with the harm that’s been done to them - that’s the kind of thing people expect and for many, and the families I met, that simply hasn’t been their experience.”

Ms Thompson explained the key functions of and differences between two of the mechanisms designed to deal with the past – the HIU (Historical Investigations Unit) and ICIR (Independent Commission for Information Retrieval.)

She explained that the HIU will have police powers to examine past crimes and be focussed primarily in Northern Ireland, whereas the ICIR will manage the process of information recovery and will be set up with the ability to operate on a cross-border basis.

“The ICIR is independent and will draw its information not from historical investigations but from information volunteered by those bodies on all parts who caused the harm,” the Commissioner said.

“The principle is someone who wants to know something can approach the commission, the commission will seek to source the information they want through those who had it because they knew about it and to convey that information to the person who asked for it. It will be surrounded by legislation which protects the people who give that information from facing that information in court as evidence. It doesn’t give amnesty or immunity from prosecution but it means their own words through this process can’t be used against them in court.”

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