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Wednesday, May 13, 1998 Published at 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK

Victims of violence need support
image: [ Victims should be remembered and supported, the report says ]
Victims should be remembered and supported, the report says

Victims of 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland deserve better treatment from authorities, including a "champion" to protect their rights, according to an official report.

The long-awaited report into the needs of victims says paramilitary organisations must also play a vital role in healing wounds by revealing where victims lay buried.

[ image: Sir Kenneth: recommends ombudsman for victims]
Sir Kenneth: recommends ombudsman for victims
In an emotional speech, the former head of the Northern Ireland civil service, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, published his report, saying the government needed to begin a long-term coordinated effort to aid the victims of violence.

His research is aimed at dealing with criticisms that authorities have focused too much on rehabilitating former paramilitaries.

Sir Kenneth's report - 'We Will Remember Them' - recommends:

  • An ombudsman for victims or a standing commission for the protection of victims.
  • A full review of the compensation system.
  • More funding and resources for existing support organisations.
  • Putting pressure on paramilitary groups to allow those who fled the province to return to their homes without fear.
  • An annual memorial and reconciliation day led by the churches.

Sir Kenneth Bloomfield: "If we are civilised, we will respond to victims' needs" (4' 30")
Publishing the report, Sir Kenneth said his work with victims had been the "most moving experience" of his 40 years as a civil servant.

"For many of [the victims], it was a painful experience to recall traumatic episodes in their lives.

"I hope and pray that this report will allow them to look forward with some hope.

"If we are truly civilised, the state and society will respond generously to their needs."

[ image: Victim support groups need more resources, says report]
Victim support groups need more resources, says report
Sir Kenneth said there was a strong argument for a powerful "umbrella" organisation to give victims a stronger voice in bidding for resources.

He said he believed it was perhaps too early to establish a permanent symbolic memorial to victims, such as a garden.

"While no one can guarantee that there will be no further victims, it could seem grotesque to contemplate a memorial if, unhappily, full-scale violence were to resume, he said.

Northern Ireland poet Michael Longley reads 'A Civil Servant', a poem about The Troubles, at the report's launch (41")
But he added: "I hope that our churches will take a lead in setting the right atmosphere in the future.

"I have suggested the designation of a memorial and reconciliation day. Would it not be nice to see just for once a symbol that we could all wear with pride and sadness."

Around 3,600 people have died during three decades of violence in Northern Ireland. Another 40,000 people have suffered injuries, many of whom were left with permanent disabilities.

Sir Kenneth said it would be "quite unacceptable" to provide services for paramilitaries "which are not matched in dealing with the victims."

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, set up the review last year in response to calls for action for victims.

The government is expected to support Sir Kenneth's findings and has already announced a special fund for victims, over and above anything recommended by Sir Kenneth.

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