Amnesty says victims of Troubles ‘disgracefully let down’

Agency criticises flawed approach to legacy of conflict

Northern Ireland internationally is held up as a model of post-conflict resolution, but the process of dealing with the past has categorically failed to deliver justice or accountability, Amnesty has complained in a report published today.

The legacy of conflict continues to fuel community division in the North, said Amnesty ahead of all-party talks on the past, parades and flags chaired by senior US diplomat Dr Richard Haass. He is expected to start meeting the Assembly parties on Tuesday.

The human rights organisation said victims of the Troubles were being “disgracefully let down” by a “flawed and fragmented approach” to dealing with the past.

Cruel irony
The 78-page report, Northern Ireland: Time to Deal with the Past, blames the "failure to deliver truth and justice" on a lack of political will from both the British government and Northern Ireland's political parties.


"There's a cruel irony in the fact that Northern Ireland is held up as a success story when many victims' families actually consider their treatment a failure," said Amnesty International director for Europe and Central Asia John Dalhuisen.

“Over the last decade a patchwork of measures, including isolated investigations, have failed to establish the full truth about the violations and abuses of the past, and left many victims waiting for justice.”

Victims of the violence endorsed one of the Amnesty report’s central complaints that processes such as those by the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team, the Police Ombudsman and various coroners’ inquests had too narrow a remit and often left families with more questions than answers.

Next generation
James Miller, whose grandfather David Miller was among nine people killed in a suspected IRA bomb attack in Claudy, Co Derry, in 1972, said families could not put the past behind them. "It's said they are waiting for us to die out. But the next generation will still keep asking questions about what happened."

Peter Heathwood was left paralysed in an attack on his home by suspected loyalist gunmen in September, 1979.

His father, Herbert Heathwood, died of a heart attack at the scene. "People say 'let's forget about the past and move on, it was 30 years ago'. That's a load of bunkum. In Northern Ireland the past is the present," said Mr Heathwood.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times