Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Friday, 4 September 2009 12:33 UK

New Troubles Victims Forum formed

soldiers at a burning building
The Troubles are generally seen as beginning in 1969

Almost 30 victims of the Troubles are to take places on a forum to advise on the needs of those who suffered during decades of violence.

Members of the Victims Forum will be asked for their views on how a victim should be defined and how Northern Ireland should deal with its past.

Their advice will be offered to the Executive and the Victims Commission.

It will include former members of the security forces, a former IRA prisoner and victims of loyalist violence.

Some of the people selected for the forum are well known, others less so.

They include Michael McKinney whose brother William was shot dead by soldiers on Bloody Sunday, Alan McBride whose wife and father-in-law died in the IRA's Shankill Road bombing, and Willie Frazer who campaigns for victims of IRA violence.

Others include Catherine McCartney, whose brother Robert was beaten to death outside a Belfast bar two years ago, and Mark Thompson whose Relatives for Justice group has focussed on state violence.

Michael Culbert is a former IRA prisoner who was sentenced to 16 years in jail for killing a police officer.

Members of the Victims Commission
The Victims Commission will be advised by the new forum

His relatives were burned out of Bombay Street in the early days of the troubles.

Victims' Commissioner Brendan McAllister has welcomed the creation of the Forum.

"We hope that we have designed a forum that upholds people's integrity so that they are able to come into the same place without accepting necessarily everything about each other," he said.

"You have people coming from opposing views, but we have sounded out everybody before they came in and we are satisfied they are going to make this work."

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said the forum "must be wary of a threat to the outcome of victims' issues".

"They (forum members) have a difficult task but a hugely important one in helping to develop a healed and reconciled society. They should be given every opportunity to undertake their work.

"However, the SDLP believe the Victims' forum and the Victims' Commissioners should acknowledge a potential threat to truth and justice for many victims and survivors.

No forum for victims should have a place for one whose actions created victims
Jim Allister

"The present British government consultation on the Eames-Bradley proposals may be framed to produce a minimum outcome, one that serves the interests of the IRA, UDA and UVF and elements in society, such as the old RUC, the British Army and others.

"Such a minimum outcome will have little to do with the disclosure of the past and the exposure of those who led the grave wrong-doings."

The leader of Traditional Unionist Voice, Jim Allister, condemned the appointment of Michael Culbert to the forum.

"No forum for victims should have a place for one whose actions created victims," he said.

"The appointment of a man with Culbert's pedigree is an obscenity which will be grossly offensive to many innocent victims throughout Northern Ireland. It is clearly yet an other attempt to sanitize the men of violence."

The forum's first formal meeting will take place in Belfast later this month.

Before that, members will travel to Scotland for a more informal gathering.

Victims Commission sources said a Scottish hotel was chosen because local hotels had difficulty accommodating a group with so many wheelchair users.

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