Addressing the Committee of The Executive Office today representatives from the Commission for Victims and Survivors and the Victims and Survivors Forum, welcomed the recent advertisement for a new Commissioner as long overdue and presented results from its recent population survey.
Conducted in September 2021, the survey found that 88% of the population of Northern Ireland believe it is important to address the legacy of the past
In that same survey, 70% were not in support of a Statute of Limitations or an ‘unequivocally broad, unconditional amnesty’ as recently signalled as the direction of travel in the UK Government’s command paper.
Commission representatives said that the closure of avenues as proposed represented a sweeping denial of rights to families and presented a real risk of seriously damaging future reconciliation.
Speaking on behalf of the Victims and Survivors Forum, Mary Moreland MBE, stated that whilst the Stormont House Agreement Institutions were not perfect, in the minds of the wider population, they remain the best way forward to meet the varying needs of all victims and survivors.
“This survey highlights the public awareness of how victims and survivors have been considered politically unimportant in measures to address the past.
“We have been without a Commissioner for over a year. This situation is incomparable to any other Commission-led body. It effectively silences the voices of those who have been affected by the Troubles and has stripped them of an independent champion at such a critical time.
“In a population of under 2 million, 350,000 people have been affected by conflict. It would be shameful to sweep aside their needs at the last hurdle.
“Those who advocate for ‘drawing a line’ under people’s grief or pain, do not reflect our voice, or indeed the voices of the majority of the population.”
The Commission also asked the Committee members to support it in ensuring the needs of victims and survivors were formally included across government policy development.
Thanking the Committee for its support, Andrew Sloan, Chief Executive of the Commission concluded that continually building towards broader reconciliation is in all our interests.
“We must be mindful that in healing our past divisions, we are also actively inclusive of other backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures.
Promoting Northern Ireland, strategic investment and regeneration are heavily reliant on prolonged and sustainable peace. So too is incentivising our young people to see a worthwhile future with the best standard of living available to them.
Learning from those who have direct lived experience of the harm and suffering caused by conflict is key to minimising the risk of a return to the past.”