Northern Ireland Assembly
Monday 15 January 2001 (continued)
Mr Paisley Jnr:
I tabled this Adjournment motion subject because it is essential that victims be accorded a recognised place in the process so that Members can discuss their needs and adequately reflect what victims and victims' groups require. I am concerned that victims have been written out of the political process, and it is essential that they be given a voice.
The best way to do that is to examine it on a constituency basis. Many points may be raised, but there are issues that must be raised in relation to each constituency. That is why I have tabled this motion with particular reference to my constituency.
In the New Year's Honours list, Const Billy O'Flaherty was awarded an MBE. He is one of the most deserving recipients of that award, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him. While it is a most fitting award, it is little to receive in return for what he lost in a cowardly IRA attack on 11 July 1989 on the Antrim coast. Constable O'Flaherty lost his arm and leg when the car he was travelling in was targeted by a roadside bomb. In spite of his horrific injuries, Constable O'Flaherty was the lucky one. Another RUC officer, Alexander Bell, lost his life in the same attack.
In total, three young men were targeted by the bomb trap on a scenic stretch of the Antrim coast road that July day. It was roundly condemned at the time not only by members of the DUP, but also by members of the SDLP. The spokesman for that area, Mr Sean Farren, who is now a Minister, condemned it in very verbose terms. However, I wish that his condemnation had been consistent, because today that same Member is partly responsible for ensuring that the people who carried out that attack are included in this Government.
When we reflect on the consequences of people's actions, we are right to point out the inconsistencies that have appeared in people's agendas. The reality is that people ought to have condemned that attack, but their condemnation should have been carried through and consistent to ensure that the people who carried out that attack are not one day accorded a privileged place in the Government of Northern Ireland.
Today they are the forgotten victims of the troubles, largely because of where they were attacked and why they were attacked. For that reason, the timely reminder and recognition of their sacrifice in the New Year's Honours list is important. However, it fails to record the lives that have been destroyed, the effect on families and the difficulties experienced by families in North Antrim coping with disability perpetrated during the troubles. Those are the real costs of the troubles.
Often the number of murders in a particular area diverts us from the real message. Whether it be an atrocity in places such as Kingsmill or Omagh, where 10 people were killed, or the attack that claimed the life of Alexander Bell in the constituency of North Antrim, the effect on families is identical. North Antrim might be thought to have escaped the worst of the troubles. Statistically that argument may be made, but it cannot be sustained when you see the individual grief and the individual effects on those who have been terrorised.
North Antrim, like every area, lived and continues to live in fear of the gunmen. At the time of the murder of Mr Bell, the view was articulated that the ambush demonstrated the power of the IRA to strike at will and to strike fear at will in any part of the Province. Over the past 30 years, 42 people have been murdered in the constituency of North Antrim. In the past 10 years in North Antrim, 352 people have been injured, according to RUC statistics, and 11 people have been murdered by paramilitaries. That is an appalling indictment at a time when we are told that ceasefires have been in place and when we are in the midst of a so-called peace process.
While big atrocities such as Kingsmill, Omagh, Darkley and Tullyvallen are burnt into the collective minds of people in the Province, the thousands of individual victims who were murdered in most callous ways have, for many people, become faceless, nameless statistics. Who among us will remember Miss Elizabeth McAuley, who was killed by an IRA bomb outside her flat in Main Street, Ballymoney on 13 April 1972, or Yvonne Dunlop, a mother of three young children, who was burnt to death in an IRA firebomb attack on a clothes shop in Bridge Street, Ballymena, in October 1976, or, more recently, the murder of the three Quinn brothers in Ballymoney in my own constituency.
Who will remember those grievous attacks? That is the human face of the troubles, and one that has largely been forgotten. To forget is human.
In recognition of this, we in civilized society have taken time and formed traditions to remember the dead. The fallen of the wars are remembered each November, while 1 July has become the day when we contemplate the tragic and terrible loss at the Somme.
It is in such a spirit that I have tabled this issue for debate today, for it is my contention that in the process of appeasing and including gunmen in the Government of Northern Ireland, their victims have been forgotten. I believe that this is not because of the natural dimming of our memories, but more because of a dynamic policy at the heart of Government to neglect the victims. To remember the victims demands justice, and it is quite clear from the process that we are in that victims do not receive justice. They receive it neither financially, nor in recognition and respect. That directly affects people in my own constituency who have been murdered, as well as their families, some of whom I have mentioned.
To properly remember the victims of the troubles, we must practically help and listen to them. Towards the end of this debate, I hope to put forward some ideas on how we can practically improve their lot. I do not believe that cold marble statues do much to reach the real core of the problem. As I speak to victims in my constituency, it becomes abundantly clear that the best memorial to their loved ones would be to remove the gunmen from Government. However, that appears to be far from occurring.
Today, we have the ludicrous farce of an agreement that purports to establish a human rights agenda, yet includes, at the heart of Government, those who have been most responsible for the abuse of human rights. The apologists for those organisations sit opposite me in this Chamber. Victims of terror have delivered their damning indictment of this agreement and have concluded that there should be no terrorists in this Government. Unfortunately, such heartfelt pleas fall on deaf ears, because those who have suffered in silence appear to be condemned to continue to suffer in silence. They should not be ignored. They should be given a voice and have their position articulated fairly.
The core of the problem is that in order to really deal with victims, especially in my own constituency, there must be justice. For many groups and individuals, this should be the priority. However, the vast majority of murders remain unsolved, and while in many cases the widows and orphans know who is responsible, those people remain free. The Omagh victims, as we know, are far from satisfied, and many other victims of major atrocities have not been satisfied in terms of justice. In the case of some of the murder victims in my own constituency, people have never been made amenable to the law. With that appalling gap, people are right to ask where the justice is in this society that has failed them.
The agreement has not helped to heal those problems, yet it was supposed to. In fact, it has disgraced the sacrifice of victims and failed them. Not only does it not give justice, it also destroys the very concept of the rule of law by freeing those people who destroyed the peace in the first instance, who wreaked injustice, leaving victims in their wake.
It is important to compare the treatment of ex-prisoners' groups with that of victims' groups, because that allows us to analyse how fairly people are being treated. Whenever we look at it in this way, it shows us something of the political world that we live in. One of the clearest indicators of what is fundamentally wrong with this process is the treatment of these innocent victims. Their isolation and agony is in stark contrast to people who are involved in what are commonly known as ex-prisoners' groups. Their apologists and ex-prisoners receive considerably more, yet those who have suffered the most receive the least.
To a large extent, this motion was prompted by my colleague Mr Dodds, and I am glad that he is present for the debate. The Minister of Finance and Personnel admitted, in answer to a question from Mr Dodds, that £4·5 million of European Union Peace money and £1·5 million of Northern Ireland Government money have been thrown at ex-prisoners groups. When we compare that with allocations to victims' groups, we find that they received only a third of that amount.
The allocations from Government funds came from taxes paid by ordinary decent folk from throughout Northern Ireland who expect to see their taxes spent on hospitals and schools, and not used to keep murderers in the luxury to which they have grown accustomed. Many of us in the Assembly have fought for increases to pensions and winter fuel payments, for better benefits for the weakest in society and for relief for students, who represent the future. It is galling to see money wasted on people who are quite clearly the destroyers of yesterday. I am sure that Sinn Féin/IRA could provide their prisoners' groups with resources from Irish America, but they want the British Government to pay for those groups.
Few homes in my constituency have not been touched by terror, and many families continue to live under the shadow of the gun. During the troubles the paramilitaries funded themselves through racketeering, drugs and an array of criminal activity. Now they can relax, knowing that the Government will continue to extort money from people while saying "Well, you do not want to go back to the bad old days, do you?" All the time, victims tell me that they still live in the bad old days and that the bad old days have never left them. Thousands of people in Northern Ireland continue to live in fear. This Christmas, many homes had an empty space at the table for fathers or sons who never returned. Today, those victims are marginalised, while the Government pursue their so-called inclusive society. It seems that the gunmen are more important to the Government; the victims are left out.
The Government and all those who signed up to this process made the decision that terrorists were more important than democrats or victims. Today we see the fruits of that policy. The research that I have done in my own constituency shows that the sum of £6 million that I mentioned is the tip of the iceberg. It does not include money channelled through the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, district partnership boards and other Government-linked intermediary funding bodies.
The biggest offender is the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust. In one instance, it gave £14,000 to a fly-fishing course for prisoners in the Maze and a further £8,000 for a follow-up course. It would be worth seeing how that amount was justified on the application form. Creative accounting reaches new levels in such applications.
The views put forward by the leaders of the groups concern me. An extract from 'An Phoblacht' was sent to me - obviously, I attach a health warning - in which Avila Kilmurray, Director of the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust, says
"politically motivated ex-prisoners of war are at the forefront and actively continuing their struggle with their clear commitments to community development".
That concerns me, because it affects victims in my constituency. Victims' groups do not receive such recognition. Many people feel that the agencies established by the Government do not engage in the same way with victims' groups or allow them to channel their resources, energies and commitment in the same way that ex-prisoners are encouraged to do.
Under the European peace and reconciliation programme, victims and ex-prisoners were to be treated equally. However, it comes as no surprise to find that the funding body that saw fit to throw money at ex-prisoners is the same one that froze funding for one victims' group, after several members of its committee were, in the natural course of events, replaced. Only when a NIVT-funded office in my constituency was turned into an arms dump and people caught there red-handed were the funders forced to freeze hundreds of thousands of pounds that had been earmarked for that organisation.
Such double standards are operating at all levels in the peace process as once again Unionists are being treated like second class citizens. Those who give their all in the fight to preserve democracy, law and order must not be treated like this any longer. Society owes them a great debt and today we, in the Assembly, must address the issue of how to repay those who have given so much and lost so much.
Like many of the issues attached to the troubles in Northern Ireland, the victims issue is an emotional and highly charged one. It is also a complex issue, and it is important not to take advantage of it for any of those reasons. I am startled by the way organisations treat victims groups compared with how they treat ex-prisoners groups. There is certainly a view that if you are an ex-prisoner group you will get considerably more from the Government, and be treated considerably better. That perception - real or imaginary - is there, and it has got to be addressed by the Government directly. It has to be addressed, whether by the Northern Ireland Office in the issues that concern it with regard to European funding, or by the Northern Ireland Executive in the issues that directly concern it and through the funding channels directly available to it.
Many of those involved have been active for decades, doing much of the same work on a voluntary basis. Victims groups are self-help groups that aim to give a voice to those who feel forgotten and excluded. Yet they are being quite clearly ignored.
Current events in our country have opened many wounds, and many victims hoped that those wounds had healed. The pain of seeing their loved ones' killers walking free, and their fear for the future, has encouraged many victims to speak out. I am not the only representative who regularly receives mail from constituents who are concerned about the way that they, as victims, have been treated.
The establishment of support groups and packages costs money. In North Antrim I would argue that no provision is being made. If no provision is being made in my constituency - where, as I have said, 11 people have been murdered in the past 10 years, where more than 300 specific troubles-related injuries have taken place and where 42 people have been murdered in the past 30 years - what provision exists in constituencies where there might be slightly fewer victims, or in those where there are considerably more? How much of a disparity actually exists? It is essential that we learn a lesson on how to treat people fairly, especially if they are victims.
Another complaint I receive regularly from victims concerns the amount of money being spent on the education, training, leisure and recreation facilities for prisoners and ex-prisoners compared to the amount spent on similar facilities for victims. Victims receive very little. Indeed, they receive no special treatment in this regard. Yet they would tell me that they see the people who perpetrated the crimes against them being given a considerable amount of resources and latitude by the Government.
The Inmate Activities Branch is responsible for the education and training budget of prisoners. Even the most cursory glance at the branch's figures reveals that £450,000 is needed to pay for full-time teachers. Overall, the education of prisoners has cost taxpayers £818,000. At that level, since the start of the troubles, it is possible that £24 million has been allocated for that. Twenty-four million pounds is a lot of money over that period of time. Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, in his recent report, said that £26 million had been allocated to compensate victims. That works out at less than £8,000 per victim - a grotesque amount. The £24 million used for the education of prisoners - when extrapolated - results in considerably more for each prisoner.
A constituent of mine whose husband was murdered withdrew one daughter from university and actively discouraged another daughter from going there because she could not afford that luxury for her family. Yet her husband's killer took advantage of the education system and graduated with honours while in HMP Maze.
When families see that and write to you about it, that must provoke you to act. One of my constituents had lost so much that she had to discourage her daughter from going on to third-level education. This woman later discovered that her husband's killer benefited greatly from the money that is pumped into the prison regime.
I am not saying that prisoners do not have rights - they do - but there must be balance in the system, and that balance is currently askew.
At present, victims are still meeting in their homes, because they do not have enough money to hire premises. In my constituency, there is the ludicrous situation where one ex-prisoners group office became an arms dump, despite the fact that victims were crying out for an office where they and their friends could go to seek help. The money is never available to realise that dream, as it is squandered on many ex-prisoners groups.
A clear disparity that is, frankly, disgusting has developed, one that has been fostered by a policy created by this Government and perpetuated by this Executive. Paramilitary experience and support structures have given the ex-prisoners a head start, and victims groups are struggling to make this up. The expectation that some funding would result in the same product for both victims groups and ex-prisoners groups is, in my view, misplaced. Victims have neither the experience nor the capacity to develop as quickly as the latter. This disparity must be addressed by the funders in the forthcoming round of funding. While prisoners have been included, I believe that victims have been excluded.
The perception that my area has not suffered has led to further exclusion and suffering of those on the periphery that have, in fact, suffered most. There may not be as strong a sense of shared suffering as there would be in an area such as South Armagh, where victims will feel lonely and isolated, but when the wakes and the funerals are over, when the press interest after some atrocity has died down, people are left to grieve alone with their loss. For decades that burden has been carried alone or with the help of very few members of the family.
Many families in my constituency have suffered terrible practical and financial loss. They may have lost the breadwinner - the largest wage earner; they may have lost an heir; younger members of the family may have been forced to go out to work rather than finish their education. There have been funeral costs, the settlement of any outstanding debt, fathers who have had to raise families alone, people who were injured in attacks and were unable to work again, people who suffered mental ill-health due to the effects of the atrocity they were caught up in, businesses destroyed and jobs lost. There have been intimidation, racketeering and boycotting, and all of these issues have taken their toll on the business community.
According to the comprehensive lists compiled by the RUC, 42 people have been murdered in my constituency. However, I fear that the real figure may be considerably higher. Some RUC men from that area who were stationed elsewhere and murdered elsewhere have been listed as having lived in the area where they were stationed.
For example, few know that Robert Millar, the second RUC officer murdered, and the first member of the security forces murdered in South Armagh, was from Ahoghill. He was killed along with Samuel Donaldson on 12 August 1970. Robert was only 26 years old and just out of the forces training depot. Many others were brought up in the area, and their relatives still live there today.
A Member who sat on one of the previous Assemblies here, Mr Edgar Graham, whose death on 7 December 1983 at Queen's University is commemorated on the memorial on the wall just outside this Chamber, was born in Randalstown and educated at Ballymena Academy.
Finally, the statistics never fully list the thousands that were injured or, indeed, affected as a result of the violence. Those who assume that North Antrim has escaped the worst of the troubles will find it shocking to learn that in the past decade, at a time when a peace process was said to be in operation, there were 11 deaths as a result of the security situation, and 352 injuries occurred. When this is broken down it is quite shocking.
In Ballymena subdivision, two people were murdered, and 150 were injured. There were 32 shooting incidents and 10 bombs.
In Ballymoney, seven people were murdered, 133 people were injured, 29 were caught up in shooting incidents, and 16 were caught up in bombs. Part of the rural hinterland of my constituency is carried by the subdivision based in Larne. Two people were murdered in that subdivision, and there were 69 injuries, 15 shooting incidents and 24 bombs. That is to say nothing of some of the more recent attacks.
This does not show the entire toll of suffering of the injured and those forced to leave the area or to escape. Many people, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you will know from your work in other fields, were maimed or disabled in attacks and have never been able to work again. The financial and social strain placed upon families has been immense and, in the absence of statutory help from the health and social services, families have literally been destroyed. Predominantly Unionist areas became prime targets for the IRA's economic war and, as a result, towns such as Ballymena suffered multiple bombs, which led to the loss of millions of pounds of stock and trade. I believe that it was only the natural resilience, work ethic and closeness of the community that allowed those towns to rebuild and restart their activities.
What can be done? That is a fair question. Throughout the troubles, the compensation paid to victims has been an insult. As an Assembly, we must ensure that a full and fair review of the whole area of compensation for victims is carried out. The review of the criminal injuries compensation, conducted by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, made 64 recommendations. While, with our help, this will improve the system in the future, there must be recognition that the system has failed past victims. Each case must be reviewed and proper compensation paid to families and the injured. Today many still struggle with loss or disability and, although for many it is too late, we must ensure that it is not too little. In the absence of justice, the least that we can do is give something back to the victims of violence.
The first issue that must be resolved, therefore, is to investigate past criminal injury compensation. That compensation was, in most cases, responsible for adding insult to injury. In the light of the recent award to a Member who received a few stitches in his head because he was hit by an RUC baton, I received a letter from a constituent. The constituent indicated that Mr Kelly of IRA/Sinn Féin had received £9,000. She, however, lost her UDR husband in a gun attack in the 1970s, and she was left to raise five children. What do Members think she was paid? She was paid less than £7,000 in compensation.
People will see that that in no way extrapolates to a fair amount of payment. Indeed, many have argued that payments to Republicans are a policy of appeasement - literally to buy off gunmen. When one divides the £26 million paid out on the death of victims by the number of victims, it averages out at approximately £8,000 for each victim in Northern Ireland. That is considerably less than the amounts many people receive for minor criminal injuries. The insult is palpable and is there for everyone to see.
Over the last 30 years this has engendered a sense of isolation, especially in my area, as victims are forced to rebuild their lives unaided. They represent a minority of the population, and the statutory care for them from the health and social services has been negligible. The impact of the troubles may have been statistically greater in other areas, but doctors in those areas would have treated more than one victim of the troubles and, therefore, could put together specific care packages. That has never been the case in North Antrim, and the symptoms of stress and other disorders have not been recognised. Help, therefore, has not been provided.
Consequently, "victimhood" has actually increased in areas where the numerical impact of the troubles is not seen as being as great as in other areas. The peace process further accelerated this exclusion, because victims had little incentive to participate. The benefits that persuaded ex-prisoners' groups to accept it, far outweighed the great losses faced by victims. With the erosion of the rule of law through prisoner releases, the destruction of our defences through the Patten Report and the idea of demilitarisation - and with security sources telling of ex-prisoners returning to their murder gangs, or even joining dissident groups - it is not difficult to see why victims have a problem with the agreement. As those who have suffered most from the violence, the victims want peace, probably more than anyone else could even imagine - but they simply ask what price they have to pay for that peace.
If there is to be peace, there must be justice, and without truth there can be no justice. To that end, and in the hope of peace, we must dedicate ourselves to the promotion of the truth.
In conjunction with the review of compensation, I propose some specific measures. The Government could act to the direct benefit of victims. Victims' groups have conducted independent needs analyses to establish what programmes and projects need to be implemented to meet their real needs and to enable them to make progress in their grief. The following areas have been identified as essential in helping with the recognition and reconciliation process.
First, centres should be created to provide training and education facilities, medical counselling and trauma facilities, specifically designed for those who have suffered as a result of terrorist violence. These should be safe environments where victims can deal with the past and plan for the future positively and with a sense of security and community. It has been impossible for many groups to obtain funds to acquire such buildings and offices, despite the essential quality services they hope to provide for those who have been socially excluded for a considerable time.
Secondly, training projects and programmes should be set up to help with the regeneration of areas most affected by violence and to promote the social inclusion of those who have been deprived of educational and employment opportunities because of their suffering. In many cases families lost their only financial provider in the atrocities, and the need has been identified to provide adequate employment-related training to allow other family members to fulfil this role - I refer particularly to widows.
Thirdly, we need to target training programmes and projects for males in the 25-plus age bracket and for females who wish to return to work if an opportunity to do so arises.
Fourthly, we need programmes and projects to help with employment and income generation to enhance opportunities for those whose prospects have been stifled by the effects of terrorism. It has been emphasised that there is a need for adequate IT training facilities to prepare victims for employment in the growing IT sector. In this age of increased social and business dependence on telecommunications, e-commerce and e-business, it is important that adequate training be provided for this group.
There is a clear need to provide sufficient training and employment support for young people in areas where terrorism has prevailed. A need has been identified to provide opportunities for young victims to channel their energies into positive projects and activities. An integrated and inclusive society should be promoted by capacity- building projects, empowering victims' groups and local communities to play a more active role in the development of their communities.
A key area has been recognised through needs analysis - the urgency of a human rights centre. This needs to be established in order to conduct research and training and to raise awareness in this specialised field, which is currently ignored by many of the so-called existing human rights groups. I seek parity of treatment in the allocation of funding. Capital funding should be set aside specifically for victims in each constituency to fund the establishment of support groups, the acquisition of suitable premises, the employment of appropriate staff and the foundation of sustainable projects to help those who have suffered. This will ensure that projects which reflect and implement good practice and added value are achievable. Plans and strategies to ensure sustainability are of central importance.
Victims' groups that are already in place in my constituency, some of which have received support from the Government, do their best, but they are not given the appropriate resources to meet a growing agenda that victims present them with.
Any criteria must ensure that funding for victims benefits those who are victimised as a result of paramilitary terrorism and that funding for victims reflects good practice and value for money. Funding should be for projects which are victim-led and have a high degree of user involvement in decision-making; demonstrate accountability and consultation openness; involve active networking partnerships with other victims' groups locally, regionally, nationally and internationally; encourage self-development, positive motivation and confidence building in order to promote social development, social inclusion and economic regeneration for people who feel isolated and excluded from society; work towards achieving sustainability; and have a clear and realistic exit strategy from the special support programme for peace and reconciliation into mainstream funding.
There is a need for firm direction. The firm direction on this issue has to be Government-led, as the resources that are required are immense and the demands are great. If we do not take this action, it will say something about what we really feel about the victims in Northern Ireland. In my own constituency it grieves me that so little has been done when so much has been asked for. It may not be asked for in the most articulate way, but it is asked for in a way which is covered in the tears of those who are grief-stricken and in a way that demands a response from the Government.
I hope that the Government pick up the challenge and decide that it is about time that the victims were recognised, even if that means pointing the finger at the structure that is now in place, which we call the institution of government here in Northern Ireland. If we do not reward, adequately respect and adequately demonstrate a genuine consideration for the victims of Northern Ireland, we do not deserve to be called a civilised society. We have only paid lip-service to the notion of civilised society if that is the case.
Mr J Kelly:
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I feel somewhat nauseated listening to Ian Paisley Jnr lecturing us about violence and its effects. He is a member of a party which, from its inception in the early 1960s in this part of Ireland, created victims of violence, sent young men - young Loyalists, young Protestants - on the foot of its sectarian propaganda and its rampage against the Nationalist community -
Mr Paisley Jnr:
On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. As the Member well knows, discussions in another place indicated that this debate was specifically about payments to victims' groups and to ex-prisoners, and the effect that that has on a particular constituency. I hope that this debate, because of the ramifications involved, will not be allowed to degenerate into a party-kicking exercise on the issue of criminal violence in Northern Ireland. I had the opportunity to do that. I did not take that opportunity. I specifically targeted my comments at direct victim atrocities in my constituency, and I hope that that is allowed to continue, otherwise this will degenerate into a filthy, muckraking exercise by Sinn Féin.
Mr Deputy Speaker:
We should address ourselves to the subject. Please keep to the subject.
Mr J Kelly:
Thank you, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I thought I was keeping to the subject, in line with Ian Paisley Jnr, who, for the past half-hour, has been regaling us with comments about Sinn Féin/IRA, and so on. I am merely making the point that it is somewhat nauseating to listen to that kind of hypocrisy coming from that quarter and somewhat difficult to keep one's patience.
Mr Deputy Speaker:
Do your best.
Mr J Kelly:
I will indeed do my best, a LeasCheann Comhairle.
I agree that the victims of violence should be compensated, but the underlying principle is, and should be, that we give equal value to the suffering of all victims. There is not a hierarchy of victims. There is not a hierarchy of victimhood. All people have suffered. Prisoners are victims of the past 30 years every bit as much as those who have suffered by losing their lives in the past 30 years.
He cannot put those who have gone to prison - for whatever reason - to one side. He cannot put aside those from the Loyalist side of the community who have been encouraged by DUP rhetoric and Paisleyism to take up weapons and to murder people from another community. That has happened and those are facts. Those people are as much victims as those who have lost their lives. They are victims of the last 30 years, and they are entitled to rehabilitation - if one wants to use that word - by education or some other means. If they get a degree, so much the better. Is it not better that people come out of prison with a degree than come out as poorly educated as when they went in?
Should we not be applauding the fact that there are people in our society who are attempting to assist ex-prisoners? Many Loyalist ex-prisoners went to prison because of the rhetoric that came from the DUP and Paisleyism. They are the Coopeys of this world, who were encouraged to murder. That is why they went to prison. The underlying principle should be that all victims should be treated equally. We should not create a hierarchy of victimhood.
Mr Paisley Jnr talks about North Antrim. We can talk about North Antrim - about William Strathearn and others who were murdered in North Antrim, some by the security forces. Others were murdered by serving members of the security forces. For example, those who murdered young Peter McBride were rewarded by being inducted back into the Army. There cannot, and must not, be a hierarchy of victimhood. It is difficult to listen to people from that side of Unionism. By their rhetoric, they have encouraged others to engage in violence over the years, sending many young Loyalists not only to prison but, in some circumstances, to their death.
I have listened to Ian Paisley Jnr talk for the last half hour about memorials and about what ought to be done and what could be done. The best memorial to the victims of the last 30 years ought to be support for our present institutions. Support for the Good Friday Agreement is the best memorial we can offer to all victims of violence, whether they are ex-prisoners, or are still in prison. By encouraging the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, we considerably lessen the chances that other young men and women will become victims of violence. On that note, Ian Paisley Jnr has not uttered a single word about the effects of the current ethnic cleansing in Larne.