Truth, justice & accountability
In May 2022, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland brought forward the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.
This Bill outlined a “conditional amnesty” as the way forward.
The Commission have always been strong in our view that all options to access truth recovery and justice must be left open. We are opposed to an amnesty, or statute of limitations, for Troubles-related deaths.
This same view is shared by Northern Ireland’s main political parties, and many victims’ organisations.
This Bill has passed through the House of Commons and now sits with the House of Lords. The Commission is continuing to lobby government and other key stakeholders to try and influence changes to the Bill.
In the past, acknowledgement has been intertwined with truth and justice.
The Commission has been working to give acknowledgement its own space. We want to consider the many ways in which people can feel seen, heard or acknowledged.
This includes exploring the arts, oral histories and creative memorialisation as a means of acknowledgement in ways that are conducive to reconciliation, healing and moving forwards.
Including children and young people on victims’ issues to influence cultural or policy change is important, and one of our current priorities.
We have published some significant research reports on transgenerational issues and have recently started to shape next steps to deliver change.
Education is one element of this that we are exploring in a formal and informal context.
Developing creative initiatives in how we engage in conversations around the past, how we share learning with current and future generations and how we use that learning both to heal, reconcile and to stop us from going backwards.
It is crucial that we look at this aspect of our work through a victims and survivors’ lens and add to, rather than duplicate, work that is going on across government programmes and the community sector on reconciliation and peacebuilding in relation to our young people.
Trauma & mental health
For many years, we have advocated for a dedicated psychological trauma service to be established for victims and survivors of the Troubles.
In 2012, our Comprehensive Needs Assessment research found trauma services across the health system to be inconsistent and difficult to access for people living with conflict-related mental health issues.
As a result of this work the concept of a Regional Trauma Network gathered support and is due to become fully operational in early 2023.
The Network will be a collaborative partnership of five trauma therapy teams within each of Northern Ireland’s health trusts, and six victims’ funded service providers.
Northern Ireland’s Executive Office and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland are jointly responsible for establishing the Regional Trauma Network.
The Trauma Team Leads in each of the Trusts, along with the Clinical Leads from the funded service providers will be responsible for its operation in communities across the region.
Services for victims and survivors
Oversight of services to victims and survivors is one of the statutory duties of the Commissioner.
This includes services directly funded by the Victims and Survivors Service, as well as dedicated services including the Regional Trauma Network and the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme.
Great Britain & Republic of Ireland
In the early years of the first government strategy for victims and survivors, work on victims’ issues was focused on Northern Ireland.
EU Peace funding has allowed some development of service provision to offer support in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland through a small number of caseworkers.
In recent years, the Commission have grown outreach and led workshops in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. This was to gauge the lived experiences of victims in these regions, consider how they can be included in a new Victims’ Strategy, and to reflect on the concept of acknowledgement more broadly.