Irish Government can do more for Troubles victims, says former minister Charlie Flanagan
The Irish Government can do more to look after Troubles victims living in the state, a former minister has said.
Charlie Flanagan said there were ”gaps in the system” when it came to catering for the needs of those injured or bereaved in the conflict.
The former justice and foreign affairs minister was commenting after attending a weekend service for victims in Clones, Co Monaghan.
The event was dedicated to what organisers described as “hidden victims of the Troubles in the Republic of Ireland”.
Families of murdered gardaí attended the service, as did bereaved relatives of civilians killed in terrorist attacks such as the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
At the event, organised by South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), some victims called for more state recognition of their loss, claiming their needs had been overlooked for decades.
Mr Flanagan said he was “very pleased” to have attended the service.
“I think that there is more work we can do on this side of the border in terms of looking after our victims,” he said.
“I have been in touch with Taoiseach Micheál Martin, I have spoken to senior officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs. And, yes, I do believe that there are gaps in the system.”
Speaking to the PA news agency at an event in Tullamore, Co Offaly, today, the Fine Gael TD noted that former tanaiste, the late John Wilson, had examined issues around victims’ needs through a commission set up by the Irish government in the late 1990s.
“Much of that work was actually stood down and it seemingly expired during the early years of this century,” he said.
“I believe it’s important that we review that and we revisit that because there are circumstances of hardship and suffering that we need to be aware of.”
He added: “There are a relatively small number of survivors of Troubles-related issues here in the Republic.
“But that shouldn’t detract from the level of suffering and the need to ensure that they are fully catered for in terms of health, in terms of welfare.
“And I have asked that a senior officials’ group across a range of government departments be convened, involving officials in the Department of Public Expenditure, in the Department of Justice, in the Department of Health, in the Department of Welfare and in the Department of Foreign Affairs to see how best this small number can be dealt with, because I believe they have a justifiable grievance.”
Mr Flanagan was minister of foreign affairs when the UK and Irish governments and the Northern Ireland parties designed a series of mechanisms for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.
The UK Government has since stepped away from that agreement and is putting legislation through Parliament that would establish a very different model, including an offer of immunity from prosecution for some individuals suspected of Troubles crimes.
Mr Flanagan reiterated the Irish Government’s opposition to the UK proposals.
“During the course of the Stormont House Agreement in 2014 I said that the Irish government will not be found wanting,” he said.
“We see at the moment unilateral action on the part of the British Government changing the framework of the Stormont House Agreement in a way that I don’t believe is satisfactory. I want changes there.”