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Where is the fresh start for victims, leaders asked

The Shankill bombing. The Wave Trauma Centre represents, among others, victims of an IRA attack at a fishmonger's on Belfast's Shankill Road

The largest cross-community victims group in Northern Ireland has accused political leaders of betrayal.

The Wave Trauma Centre represents victims of an IRA bombing at a fishmonger's on Belfast's loyalist Shankill Road which killed nine innocent shoppers, the family of Jean McConville who was kidnapped, murdered and her body disposed of by republicans and those bereaved by alleged loyalist collusion with police in more than a dozen north Belfast killings among others.

Tuesday's Stormont "Fresh Start" deal between the British and Irish Governments and Northern Ireland's two largest parties failed to resolve the legacy of thousands of unresolved Troubles murders and countless badly injured.

Wave chief executive Sandra Peake asked: "Where is the fresh start for the bilateral amputees, the blind, the paraplegic and the severely traumatised?"

The deal, entitled A Fresh Start: The Stormont House Agreement And Implementation Plan, does not include previously proposed new mechanisms to find out what happened during the conflict, bring people to justice and establish support measures for the bereaved and injured.

Ms Peake added: "The reality is that they have abandoned and betrayed victims and survivors who have repeatedly been promised that there would be an inclusive and comprehensive way found to deal with the legacy of the past."

Thousands of unsolved murders from the 30-year conflict were due to be investigated as part of last year's Stormont House Agreement.

However some nationalists have accused the British Government of not meeting its obligations on transparency on its role during the conflict and ministers have now said they will "reflect" on a way forward as part of the new pact.

Ms Peake added: "The two Governments and political parties have said that dealing with the suffering of victims and survivors is central to Northern Ireland moving forward.

"They can no longer say that with any credibility."

She said victims had been told to wait repeatedly only to end up with nothing.

"Now they have been given a document that with absolutely no hint of irony is being called a 'Fresh Start' and there is nothing beyond a vague reference to continuing to 'reflect'.

"Where is the 'fresh start' for them?

"Where is the fresh start for those who were left in limbo when the Historical Enquiries Team was wound up without even the courtesy of a few hours notice?"

She questioned where is the fresh start for those who wanted their stories and testimonies of suffering recorded and acknowledged.

"Where is the fresh start for the bilateral amputees, the blind, the paraplegic and the severely traumatised who have to rely on a Private Members' Bill passing before the Assembly winds up to give them a modest pension to supplement the benefits that they are forced to live on because of their injuries?

"But perhaps the saddest, most depressing aspect of all this is that while they are shocked, disgusted and beyond disappointment they are not surprised."

The Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Judith Thompson, said there was overwhelming disappointment.

"Once again it is those who have suffered the most and compromised the most to build a better future in Northern Ireland who are still left wondering if, and when, they will ever get the opportunity for acknowledgement, truth, justice and some form of reparation for the pain and suffering they have endured."

ends

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the families of some loyalist terror victims as well as people killed by British troops, have vowed to continue their quest for justice.

In a hard hitting statement, KRW Law accused the British Government of using national security issues as an "excuse" not to open its files.

The statement said: "Not all victims of the violent legacy of the conflict in the north of Ireland want the same thing.

"There is no imperative at work in the motivation of victims. Some want nothing but to forget and reconcile their loss as best they can and move on with their everyday lives. Others want retribution. Others, the majority we suspect, simply want truth, justice and accountability - accountability which is different to retribution but which might contribute toward reconciliation. They want the file of their lost one marked closed but on their understanding that truth and justice has been accounted for, at last.

"Each move in the slow sad dance of litigation is contested, blocked and fought over.

"It will not, in the absence of a form of investigation of these violent acts which satisfies not only human rights but the rule of law, deter either ourselves or our clients. We, and more importantly they, are not going to go away."

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