Jennifer Mc Cann SF MLA rejects notion of "hierarchy of victims".
Speaking today in the Assembly, Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer Mc Cann said,
"The issue of victims and survivors of the conflict is a very sensitive and emotional issue. We are speaking about the people who lost their lives in this conflict and in particular we are speaking about their relatives, the survivors, who every day of the week live with the trauma of bereavement.
Our priority and our focus should be to ensure that all relatives are treated with respect and that every effort is made to support them. I object to and I know that many relatives also object to any notion that there is a hierarchy of victims, that there are less deserving relatives than others, simply because the circumstances surrounding the death of their loved one does not fit into a biased political outlook.
Over the last number of years there are many examples of relatives and relative's organizations being insulted and abused by those speaking on behalf of political parties outside this chamber. Families who are the victims of State Violence and Collusion feel they have been demonized because they dare to seek the truth about how their loved ones died.
The combined actions of the British State and Loyalist forces are responsible for 1414 deaths - a figure that represents a little over 39% of the total number of those listed as having been killed. Some of them include young children who were killed by plastic bullets. Yet the British Government has never acknowledged the hurt and pain it was responsible for in its dealing with relatives of those killed.
The issues of accountability, truth and justice are paramount for all those affected by State and State sponsored violence. It is now firmly established in the public domain that the British government armed loyalists and that British intelligence agencies directed them to kill people. This is what collusion was all about.
It was part the British government's military offensive against the nationalist people. The use of loyalists by the British government gave cover to their armed forces to secretly operate in an arena which was illegal and where the crown forces could not be publicly seen or risk being caught. It is obvious to most reasonable people what the British government were at. The British Government have to accept that fact.
The last decade has seen a number of investigations into collusion by highly respected individuals motivated to uncover the truth surrounding the state approved and directed murder campaign. Lord Stevens conducted three investigations; Canadian Judge Peter Corry also investigated collusion and Nuala O'Loan, the Police Ombudsman produced a damning report which exposed the intimate, friendly and deadly relationship between RUC Special Branch and loyalists.
Recently the PPS announced that no member of the British crown forces currently serving in those forces or retired will be prosecuted for their involvement in the murder of seven people, one Protestant and six Catholics including human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. This decision and the manner in which the PPS informed the families concerned caused great offence and hurt. Those benefiting from the decision are in high office inside the British political and military establishment. They were involved in these murders.
Families who have been directly affected by the policy of collusion are entitled to the truth of why a state agency that is supposed to uphold the law and protect citizens was instrumental in killing their loved ones. The dignity with which these families have conducted their campaign to uncover the truth and the determination they have shown when political representatives have attempted to trivialize that campaign by engaging in the politics of denial has to be commended.
Nowhere in Bertha Mc Dougall's report is their any mention of collusion or acknowledgement by the British State of its responsibility for, and its role as a protagonist in, the conflict. The British Government needs to start acknowledging and taking on board the feelings and sensitivities of the victims of collusion and state violence.
If we are to move into a society based on equality and justice and where human rights are respected then none of us should fear the truth. The families of all the victims of the conflict deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. There must never be a hierarchy of victims
When taking any initiatives in respect of victims and survivors we should take our lead from victims and their families and endeavor to make a positive contribution to helping them come to terms with their circumstances. "