The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors has called on the UK Government to deliver a co-ordinated approach with the Irish Government in the implementation of upcoming Legislation on Legacy institutions.
In publishing her recommendations to government, Judith Thompson pointed to the fact that over the last 20 years more than half a billion pounds has been spent on trying to deal with the legacy of the past while providing no lasting resolutions.
“The proposed legislation will not please everyone and the Commission’s advice makes recommendations for change, but it has taken years to reach a point where every political party has agreed to a way forward and we cannot lose this opportunity. To quote one of our Forum members ‘building for a better future is something we can only do when we have properly addressed the legacy of the past.’”
“Implementing institutions that on the one hand deal with a criminal justice investigation and on the other offers a protected process of information sharing that may give closure to thousands of grieving families will be challenging to run in tandem and the proposed mechanisms need to be re-worked to address that.
“Equally we need realistic levels of funding and timelines for co-ordination and delivery of the proposed Historical Investigations Unit, Independent Commission for Information Retrieval, Oral History Archive and Implementation and Reconciliation Group. It is widely acknowledged that the £150m across 5 years just won’t cut it.
“It is also important to recognise that there are a number of other matters agreed in principle in the Stormont House Agreement that need to be progressed.
“Whilst I gladly welcome the recent announcement of funding for legacy inquests, we cannot forget that there are also people who are severely physically and psychologically injured still waiting on a pension to alleviate financial pressures in their latter years of life, people who need access to specialised mental health services through the Regional Trauma Network which at the moment isn’t adequately funded to deal with the level of need, and appropriate advocacy support to act as the interface with other agencies designed to meet victims’ needs.”
Many victims and survivors have waited decades in a system that has been chronically backlogged, therefore building credibility and gaining trust is a huge challenge for new institutions. Transparency is key to this which is why my recommendations address the need to ensure that any application of National Security and Official Secrets Act restrictions have strict limitations and a robust appeals process.
“My office has consulted widely on legacy matters to gather a victim-centred and inclusive narrative in developing this new advice throughout the UK and Ireland. Those victims outside Northern Ireland feel strongly that in the past they have been forgotten, left without even the limited access to investigations and support that has been available in to those in Northern Ireland; this must change and all who were harmed should be given equitable opportunity to have that harm addressed.
“People deserve to be heard, they deserve answers in their lifetime which is why we must make this work a priority. I will continue to work closely with the British and Irish governments and speak directly to those who will be making decisions on these legacy issues; it is vital that the voices of victims and survivors are not lost in these processes.”
You can read the advice paper by clicking on the following link:
The premise of our advice was to centre our recommendations around the Key Guiding Principles as devised by the Victims and Survivors Forum. You can view infographics depicting this below: