September 14th 09
There must be Truth and Equality for all Victims
The DUP brought forward a motion in the Assembly on Monday which asked the Assembly to “support the case being taken by the victims of IRA terrorism to claim compensation from the Libyan Government who supplied arms and semtex explosives to the IRA; and further calls on the UK government to apply diplomatic pressure on Libya to pay this compensation.”
Sinn Féin opposed the motion, and in the debate in the chamber we set out our reasons for doing so.
These are my remarks:
“Sinn Féin will be opposing this motion.
It is our view it is unfair and partisan.
Let me say for the record that Sinn Féin is not opposed to any victims campaign lobbying any government, anywhere in the world, for compensation.
Let me also say that I am mindful of the suffering of those families who lost loved ones or who were injured as a result of IRA actions.
I believe that it is part of the responsibility of republicans to acknowledge this and to do all that we can to build a better society for all the people of this island.
I also believe others need to do the same.
So it would have been better if the members putting this motion had consulted with the other parties to bring forward a motion which could unite us rather than divide us and which would have reflected the suffering of all victims.
This motion suggests that there is a hierarchy of victims. That is wrong.
The only way that political parties in particular and society in general can deal properly with all of these issues is on the basis of equality of treatment for all.
This motion falls therefore at this first and most important hurdle.
It is understandable that some victims and their families can be entirely focused upon those who are responsible for their loss.
That is their right.
But we who are in political leadership should be about representing all citizens and all victims.
Many of those who have suffered most are also among the most magnanimous and forgiving of our people.
We in this Assembly should follow their example.
This motion calls upon the British government to apply diplomatic pressure on Libya.
The movers of the motion must surely appreciate the inappropriateness the hypocrisy of any British government making or supporting such a demand of any other government given the London government’s long history of involvement in violence in Ireland.
This includes the killing of citizens from Derry to Ballymurphy, from Newry to the Shankill and on many other occasions.
It includes directing, arming, training, and providing information to unionist death squads which led to the deaths of citizens.
It includes numerous cover ups, including revelations recently about Loughlinisland.
Remember taxpayers money, what greater scandal, was used to finance all these killings.
Is this not a matter of concern for the DUP? Or the other parties here?
Let me give you one brief example.
In the summer of 1985, and with the full knowledge of British intelligence, a British agent Brian Nelson was sent to apartheid South Africa to get weapons.
To finance the trip the UDA, the UVF and Ulster Resistance – which was established by the DUP - carried out a bank robbery on the Northern Bank in Portadown, which netted £325,000.
This was then used to purchase a shipment of arms.
In the three years after the South African shipment arrived here unionist paramilitaries killed 224 citizens and wounded countless hundreds more.
So, while I understand why our friends in the DUP are moved to bring forward today’s motion, I put it to them that no unionist leader has ever acknowledged the role of the state or political unionism in formenting and sponsoring conflict in our country.
The rejection of the Eames-Bradley Commission’s proposal for a Recognition Payment is yet another example of this. And I was very disappointed to hear the member from Lagan Valley restate this today. His remarks reinforced the misguided notion that one set of families of victims can designated as unworthy or of some lesser value than any other set of families.
The issue of state killings and of collusion – which was an administrative practice and part of the British Government’s strategy –has to be dealt with.
That British government’s refusal to co-operate with inquiries, to hand over files, its suppression of reports from Stalker/Sampson to Stevens are all evidence of an unwillingness to end the cover-ups and to take responsibility for their actions.
Exorcising the role of the British state in promoting and prolonging conflict in our country, and in the killing of citizens, is in no one’s interest – especially the families – and should not be any part of the business of this Assembly.
So there are big challenges for us all if we are to deal properly with these issues.
I continue to hope that our unionist friends will rise to these challenges.
As for the SDLP?
That party’s refusal to sign a petition of concern today is yet another illustration of its short sightedness and lack of vision.