Written evidence submitted by the Ely Centre (LEG0026)

 

“Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly with your God”

Micah 6:8

 

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
  Aldous Huxley

 

“The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.”
  Kalu Ndukwe Kalu

 

1.       Preamble

 

1.1   Thank you for the opportunity for the Ely Centre a Victims and Veterans Charity established after the Enniskillen Poppy Day bombing on 08 Nov 1987. An incident that portrayed to the world the full horror of terrorism, murder and mayhem carried out by an organisation who had no respect for human life nor dignity.

The Provisional IRA have never ever apologised to the families of those innocent people who were killed or maimed on this fateful day. This incident along with many others equally horrifying, before and since are now being encapsulated and brought under an overarching body to address the legacy of the Northern Ireland`s past.

 

1.2   To the world outside of Northern Ireland it is legacy, it is the past or a footnote of historical events. To the many innocent victims of the troubles, the retired Police Officers from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Veterans from all of the armed forces who have served in NI, it is not legacy it is part of their daily living, dealing with the horrors witnessed during their service and coping with a combination of life changing injures or mental health conditions which impacts on them and their families on a daily basis. To them legacy is in the here and now.

 

1.3   We would ask that the committee read our response to the consultation we sent to the Northern Ireland Office in October 2018, which is attached to this consultation in conjunction with our response outlined in this document and would ask the committee to note the quotations on truth and perceptions listed at the heading of this submission. We are attempting to deal with a number of issues; acknowledgement, truth and understanding of our past at the same time we have the perception of what Legacy hopes to achieve in order to achieve the aims of dealing with our past a circle that is difficult to square away.

 

2.       Response to the approach will meet the needs of victims, survivors and their families.

 

2.1   The response outlined in the original consultation does not meet the needs of the victims, survivors or their families for the following reasons:

 

3.       What Steps the Government can take to ensure that the proposed new legacy body is independent, balanced and open, and complies with the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and ECHR.

 

3.1   The overall governance of each of the legacy bodies must have clearly defined procedures, governance and defined aims and objectives for the role that they will be fulfilling. Front and centre to this must be to take into account the needs of the victims and their families covering managing their expectations, the client journey and have a collaborative approach with other organisations from the Victims and Survivors Service in relation to advocacy support and Health and Wellbeing.

3.2   The HIU are to be fully accountable to the Northern Ireland Policing Board and ensure that the recommendations from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies reports of the PSNI Legacy Branch in 2014 are incorporated in the HIU structure.

3.3   All of the institutions must have firm guidelines covering conflicts of interest as part of the overall governance for all levels of personnel who are engaged with any of the legacy bodies. More importantly retired RUC personnel must not be excluded from taking up posts with the HIU based on their previous employment with the force.

 

4.       The differences between the Government`s new proposals and the draft Stormont House Agreement.

 

4.1   The legacy of the troubles is extremely complex, emotive and in many ways divisive politically and within the wider society. The main difference between the Government`s proposals over the Stormont House Agreement is that the Stormont House Agreement was aspirational and not set out in law and was in effect a road map to reconciliation and good government underpinned by guiding principles covering legacy. The government`s intention will bring to the fore legislation to address the issues raised via the legacy consultation in 2018. For this legislation to be successful the proposed legislation must be backed up with the resources in terms of the finances, structures of the bodies and completed within a reasonable time frame and more importantly has the support of victims, their families and from those organisations such as funded VSS groups who have been front and centre in their support to victims and their families.

 

5.       Whether and how the Government`s proposals will promote reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

 

5.1   The proposed legislation as outlined by the government will not address or promote reconciliation until the barriers  set out in the consultation documents addresses the imbalance on investigations of personnel from the police or military background over terrorist group incidents. Furthermore the investigation of retired police officers for NCPM cases is not balanced fair and serves no purpose when no remedy to the victim and it is not clear what punishment can be issued to officers who are no longer in service is established. It will be time consuming, costly and is a waste of valuable resources within the HIU which would be better spent on the criminal investigations. Moreover it is the perception amongst many of our veterans and retired police officers that this is a mechanism in which the narrative on the past can be re-written for political expediency.

5.2   A  definition  of  what  is  meant  by  reconciliation  should  also  be  provided.

Reconciliation should be based on clear principles. In a democracy it is never right to engage in terrorism so as to pursue a political aim. Reconciliation can never be achieved when terrorists and their supporters deny having done wrong or justify the wrong they have done. There needs to be a turn-around from  those  who  were  engaged  in  acts  of  terrorism  and  only  when this happens can there be effective reconciliation with their victims.

 

6.       The potential merits of consolidating the bodies envisaged in the Stormont House Agreement into a single organisation.

 

6.1   We would fully support the integration of all the proposed governing bodies set out by the government provided that the overarching body is free from political interference and has no direct input from any political organisations and is made up of personnel who have the knowledge and skills in dealing with the complex requirements of each of the legacy bodies. Furthermore, the government should take the same approach as set out in the Victims Payment Scheme Regulations 2020 and make this body a formal management board with the support structures and mechanisms to decide on complex legal and administrative arguments. In addition this board should conduct an annual review of all of the bodies to recommend any proposed changes to the legislation and to provide the government with an annual report.

6.2   The HIU on the other hand must be separate from the body set out in para 6.2 as the HIU is directly accountable to the NI policing board or investigations from HMIC.

 

6.3   The UK Governments proposed approach to house all legacy Initiatives and requirements into one newly created Independent Body whilst understandable and appealing for a plethora of reasons including 

Does not, on reflection have the potential to satisfy the myriad of legitimate needs of truth/justice and acknowledgement which many victims and survivors and their families hold sincerely.

The Ely Centre do not support the position that the previous proposals (4 bodies) had the potential and community support necessary to adequately address the needs of victims. Following a consultative process with victims /surviviors our arguments were documented within our consultation response in the Autumn of 2018, a copy of this is available for perusal, we still affirm the position outlined within this document.

As a Charity operating in the current economic climate, we are fully cognisant, that the economic ramifications of The COVID 19 Pandemic will be vast, long lasting and severe and have the potential to impact this current and future generations to come. 

We are extremely concerned that, to create, implement and manage a single large legacy bodies which incorporates all the aspects of the original proposal will inevitable end up being an increasing burden an unnecessary addition to the public purse when current structures already present could evolve to address the needs of victims and survivors if supported.

At present the PSNI LIB and OPONI are in the process of implementing HMIC Recommendations for investigation and legacy. The Ely Centre believe that if both institutions were properly resourced and implemented HMIC  recommedations they would have the potential to address existing and prospective legacy caseloads. The lack of funding is the main reason for the backlog of cases and delay in processing cases on the part of the LIB, OPONI and the Coroners Service. Adequate funding would enable these institutions to process historical cases much more quickly and efficiently

These existing institutions are “oven ready” and with increased resources could greater experience and expertise to competently investage the past in a more adequate way, in contrast to the creation of a new body which could take 2-3 years to be in a position that these bodies are currently at.

 

 

 

7.       The equity of the Government`s proposed approach to the re-investigation of cases.

 

7.1   In general terms we support the government’s proposal for re-investigation however, there must be a mechanism in place for families who may have received an HET report to ask for this investigation to be re-opened if enough evidence from the family warrants it. In addition the head of HIU should have the power to group investigations such as Enniskillen bombing, Warrenpoint or Ballygawley bus bombing and will ensure a balanced use of resources within the HIU.

7.2   Although it has not been covered within the consultation, the Ely Centre strongly urge the government to include incidents where victims were received life changing injuries that there cases can be investigated in order to give closure to these families who have had to live with the life changing conditions.

 

8.       What legislative steps the Government can take to address what have been described as vexatious claims against veterans.

8.1   Northern Ireland in comparison to other jurisdictions has an increased number of applications for judicial reviews of decisions taken by government and is used even more widely when it comes to decisions relating to legacy. This continual merry go round of abuse of legal processes is damaging to peace and reconciliation and is done for alternative reasons and is highly contentious. In order to prevent vexatious claims by legal advisors or the families and to remain compliant with ECHR the proposed legislation must lay down the main criteria for requesting a judicial review of decisions taken by the Management Board or Head of HIU. The management board or head of HIU should have within their remit the power to refuse to co-operate or respond to a claim if they can prove that the claim is vexatious or damaging to the objectives of their relevant areas of operation.

8.2   The legislation must lay out the overall process and make wider use of the guidance by the treasury solicitor and make wider use of restriction orders if this is warranted. The guidance should form part of the overall management structure of the HIU and Management Board of the other areas of legacy and should have in legislation the power to impose restriction orders on a group, individual or legal practice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annex A

 

 

 

SUBMISSION ON BEHALF OF THE ELY CENTRE

 

IN RESPONSE TO THE GOVERNMENT CONSULTATION ON

“ADDRESSING THE LEGACY OF NORTHERN IRELAND’S PAST”

SEPTEMBER 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreward:

The Ely Centre is a Registered Charity specialising in the provision of multi-disciplinary support services for civilians, security force personnel and their families, who have experienced bereavement and injury as a result of the “Troubles".

The Ely Centre is committed to serving innocent victims and survivors, ex service personnel, their families and carers by providing evidenced based outcome focused treatments, prevention and support services that address issues of declining psychological, physical health, social and financial difficulties arising as a result of terrorism

As an organisation formed in the Aftermath of the Enniskillen Remembrance Sunday Bomb 1987 This submission is dedicated to the memory of all Innocent Civilians murdered on that day and to all Civilians, British Armed Forces and Security Force Personnel who were murdered as a result of Terrorism during The Troubles and their families who continue to suffer as a result of their loss.

Furthermore we remember those who continue to live with psychological and physical injuries as a result of terrorism. The truth of what happened and the suffering the Troubles has caused must never been forgotten.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction:

On behalf of the Ely Centre, we welcome this opportunity to respond to the consultation paper published by the Northern Ireland Office and to comment upon the proposals contained within it. This consultation has also provided the opportunity to comment upon other Legacy matters relating to The Troubles. 

The Ely Centre concur with the view expressed by the British Prime Minister, Victims and Veterans Charities and Associations and Representatives from many Political Parties that the current arrangements for investigating our past are one sided and unacceptable to all innocent victims.

At present there is a total investigatory imbalance, with a focus on the activities of the Armed Forces and the RUC with a lack of focus upon the vast amount of single and multiple fatality Republican Terrorist atrocities including

This investigatory imbalance is evidenced in the work of the Legacy Branch of the PSNI, High Profile Inquiries, The Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, The Public Prosecution Service and Legacy Inquests. Coupled with this imbalance the Northern Ireland population and wider afield, increasingly are being fed a negative narrative designed to undermine the credibility, reputation, honour and sacrifice of the Armed Forces and the Police whilst sanitising the actions of terrorist and paramilitary organisations.

A continuation of the current situation will result in a further rewriting of this narrative of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. When one considers the historical fact that terrorists were responsible for over 90% of the murders during the Troubles, (Approx. 2,500) and state forces linked to less than 10% (355) of killings, an inevitable outcome of the current direction of investigative arrangements would lead to an clear distortion of what actually happened here and add further insult to the memory of all innocent victims and their families and colleagues. If this or any Legacy proposal is to be deemed acceptable and fair to the general populace then that murder/killing ratio of 14:1 must be applied within the investigation process.

As an organisation working with victims and survivors of terrorism on a daily basis, we find the current definition of a victims and survivors offensive to all innocent victims. In our opinion there is a clear distinction in law between a terrorist perpetrator and their innocent victims. To equate the two which currently occurs is morally wrong and unforgivable.

There can be no satisfactory way of dealing with the past unless the present definition of a victim is changed. We cannot accept any definition under which a perpetrator, a terrorist, can be classified as a victim. Someone who blows himself up with his own bomb or is shot while engaged in terrorism is not, by any acceptable definition, a victim.

We call upon local politicians to endorse this widespread opinion and the UK Government to bring forward legislation to change the definition of a victim to ensure there is enshrined in law a clear distinction between the Republican and Loyalist terrorist and paramilitary and victims and to prevent them and the groups that represent them from benefitting from their illegal and criminal activities.

Whilst we desire change and peace within our country and to have the implementation of new arrangements to deal with our past, we implore the legislators to ensure that Victims & Our Veterans are placed front and centre of this process. Tantamount in this positioning is the support available to the both throughout this process to ensure their experience is matched with the highest quality of support and care which they deserve. 

As an organisation we implement a model of “Wrap around Support” this approach must be employed throughout any Legacy process. Victims and Ex Forces involved within Legacy institutions must have structured, evidenced based support and care (pre, during and post involvement) which may include

Most practitioners employed within the field believe that with the introduction of new Legacy Bodies the probability for unearthing and increasing the prevalence of psychological trauma is greatly increased.

All multidisciplinary support to manage and mitigate against this risk for victims, veterans and their families must be heavily resourced and invested in at the outset as the personal physical and psychological costs are very high for many who may be effected by any proposals to address the past.    

If experience is anything to go by current funding levels will not cater for the demands of this process, organisations on the ground are already at capacity in dealing with victims issues and with such a focus upon the past as these institutions will create the capacity for groups engaging with victims will have to be matched with investment to deal with demand.

It is our opinion that this proposed legislation if passed would not have Royal Assent until 2019 at the earliest, followed by a 2 year implementation phase, which means that these institutions may not be operational until 2021 at the earliest. VSS and Peace funding is due for cessation or review at this time therefore to ensure continuity of support to is provided to victims throughout this process we call for Peace 5 and VSS funding to continue until 2030. This we believe is a reasonable timeframe for legislation, implementation, investigation and closure of these institutions to be carried out. 

There are now a number of observations we wish to make about the Governments proposals, outlined overleaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEY ISSUES CONCERNING THE HISTORICAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT (HIU) 

The Ely Centre fully support Victims in relation to the pursuit of Justice and obtaining resolution in respect to their individual cases and  welcome that this consultation has identified this Judicial process is an extremely important area to many victims and survivors.

However, the HIU as outlined within the consultation document contains in our opinion a number of concerns. It is clear that what victims and indeed normal society demand and require is the pursuit of justice in relation to Murder or Serious Injury could be perceived as not the main raison d’etre,for the HIUS existence, but rather, it could be construed as an attempt to rewrite the history of the Troubles by its lack of proportional attention upon the perpetrators and the associated media and civic furore that would follow this unfair scrutiny upon the state forces. 

In honest terms as the HIU is currently proposed and is being perceived may not, indeed could not work in a “way that is fair and honestly reflective of the past and therefore questions its requirement at all. In review of the document and in consultation we have identified a number of key issues of concern.

Dangerous Precedents

Governance:

 

Powers & Remit:

 

 

Balanced Justice:

Remit:

Equality of Access.

Wrap Around Support:

Long Term Funding:

All Island Reciprocity:

Recruitment:

Support:

Further comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEY ISSUES CONCERNING THE INDEPENDENT COMMISSION ON INFORMATION RETIREVAL (ICIR)

KEY ISSUES CONCERNING THE ORAL HISTORY ARCHIVE:

A FORGOTTEN TRUTH.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEY ISSUES CONCERNING THE IMPLEMENTAITON AND RECONCILIATION GROUP (IRG)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. 

We believe that in the pursuit of truth and justice, made available through legacy bodies, many victims will be faced with the following conclusion

This realistic conclusion of what many will face through such processes must be made aware to them before they commence this process, to ensure that false expectations are not raised which could further retraumatise them.

Such processes on the ground must be sensibly and realistically handled and a strong duty of care and responsibility must be upon those dealing with victims and their families.  

In many Legacy cases, rightly or wrongly, there will inevitably be a stronger public interest in protecting national security in contrast to their or the public interest in openness and transparency relating to Cases.

Some Information a victim is seeking could adversely impact on any investigative process and may jeopardise future prosecutorial process and thus may be released in a very tempered version.

Also consideration will be given to the impact of release of information and what it  may bring to the wider community specially members of the security forces not just in northern Ireland but globally and to the general public, therefore tempered versions of what actually happened may be produced.

And furthermore the information sought whilst of importance to the victim and of historical interest, the health and safety of individuals and their families within the case must be taken into account especially were the release of certain information would be likely to endanger the physical or mental health of and individual and therefore the victim will most likely receive a family report containing a story which they already know.

This realistic outcome of what many who seek to know more in respect to their cases must be made fully aware at the onset. It is for the individual person (S) to decide alone if they wish to proceed but their decisions must be fully informed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FURTHER COMMENTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION:

The Ely Centre is honoured to pledge to the Armed Forces Covenant. We acknowledge and understand that those who currently or in the past served in the Armed Forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the community, economy and society they served and protected with their lives, this commitment to the Armed Forces and the Police who braved the darkness, suffered so greatly and defended the people from terrorists has underpinned our response and similarly must be reflected in this or any Government proposal or consultation process.

If the Government decides to proceed with these proposals we will monitor their existing commitments and implementation closely to ensure fairness, impartiality, balance and that victims and veterans are placed front and centre where they deserve to be.

In reflection this has been a workable attempt at the legislation, however as an organisation we have serious concerns as indicated above with the current proposals as they stand and would strongly urge that our concerns be considered in any proposed legislation.

This legislation will never satisfy the very real and genuine demands of Victims and their families and a realistic management of expectations surrounding this must be considered before we deem this process necessary.

Any historical record must not be subject to any form of government veto or even scrutiny and no attempt must be made to prevent or delay its publication. In that way we might even get to the truth.

We trust that the views and concerns we have shared and the suggestions made on our behalf will be given serious consideration by the Northern Ireland Office and by Parliament.

 

1 June 2020