Leading article

James Brokenshire must listen to Ann Service and other bereaved relatives

In the week that the interests of victims and survivors of the Troubles were again relegated in terms of political priorities, it was timely for the secretary of state to hear a moving plea from one bereaved mother, urging him to ensure the dead are not forgotten.

Ann Service's son Brian, a 35-year-old Catholic, was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries as he walked home from his brother's house in north Belfast in October 1998.

In an open letter to James Brokenshire, Mrs Service said of her son: ''When they told me he was dead I just wanted to lie down on the ground where he died alone to be close to him even for a moment.''

So much pain and heartache is conveyed in that single sentence - suffering that is replicated in the homes of all those killed during our decades of conflict.

Brian Service, as would be expected, is very much in the thoughts of his grieving mother. She is completely focused on ensuring he is not forgotten by the authorities, including the police and the British government.

In her letter, Mrs Service told Mr Brokenshire that after her son's death, it was as if `he never really existed as a person' and his life and death `did not matter.'

In particular, the police `hardly seemed to bother with an investigation.' She pointed out that her family has been unable to learn any more about his death since the day he was shot.

It is disturbing that a bereaved family should be left in this position but as we know it is not an unusual occurrence.

So many relatives have been left without answers, their quest for justice delayed and obstructed.

Mr Brokenshire's response is that the Stormont House Agreement represents the best means of addressing the past.

The stalled agreement's proposals were signed off in 2014 and now a highly contentious amnesty plan for soldiers has been included for consultation, which is clearly not in the best interests of victims.

Government needs to show that it is listening to bereaved relatives like Ann Service and is genuinely committed to providing answers.

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