Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund

  The Northern Ireland Memorial Fund is an independent charity that seeks to promote peace and reconciliation by ensuring that those who have suffered as a result of the `Troubles' in Northern Ireland are remembered, by providing them with help and support in a practical and meaningful way.


The British Government

  On 24 October 1997 the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Dr Marjorie Mowlam MP, established a commission "to look at possible ways to recognise the pain and suffering felt by victims of violence arising from the troubles of the last 30 years, including those who have died or been injured in service of the community". On 19 November 1997 she wrote to Sir Kenneth Bloomfield with the following terms of reference: "to lead the commission and to examine the feasibility of providing greater recognition for those who have become victims in the last 30 years as a consequence of events in Northern Ireland, recognising that those events have also had appalling repercussions for many people not living in Northern Ireland". Sir Kenneth published his report entitled We Will Remember Them in May 1998. His report contained 20 recommendations, focused on ways of acknowledging and addressing the needs of those who had become victims.

  The Secretary of State accepted the recommendations in Sir Kenneth's report and appointed the Right Honourable Adam Ingram JP MP as Minister for Victims. In June 1998 the newly appointed Minister for Victims set up the Victims Liaison Unit to begin the process of implementing the recommendations in Sir Kenneth's report. One of those recommendations was related to the creation of a fund to assist, in particular, children and young people affected by the death or injury of a parent. It became apparent—following consultations with many victims and survivors—that such a fund should cover the wider needs of victims and survivors, and be a living memorial to those who have suffered and continue to suffer. Hence the Minister implemented this recommendation and established a Memorial Fund that would address a wide range of the problems faced by many victims and survivors.

  The Minister approached fourteen individuals to independently administer the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund. The Fund was registered a company limited by guarantee (NI 36167) and awarded charitable status by the Inland Revenue on 18 May 1999 (Ref XR31751). The Government made an initial contribution of £1 million to start the Fund, and has since contributed a further £5.3 million.

The Northern Ireland Assembly

  The Northern Ireland Executive has also recognised that "among the most vulnerable individuals in society are the victims of our prolonged conflict, along with those who care for them and the relatives of all victims, whether surviving or dead". In its Programme for Government, the Executive has stated that "in seeking to create a new future, and as an important part of addressing, human rights, it is important that special attention is paid to the needs of those who have been most directly affected by the violence of the last 30 years. The needs of victims and survivors are complex, ranging from coping with serious injury through to physical and emotional trauma, along with dealing with often adverse economic to circumstances." This commitment and the resulting plan of action incorporated in the Programme for Government was co-ordinated by the Victims Unit located in the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFM/DFM). Following very positive discussions between the Fund and OFM/DFM on how the Fund might assist and complement the Programme of Government, they allocated approximately £700,000 over a three year period.

Republic of Ireland Government

  The Taoiseach made a commitment back in 1999 when the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund was first established that the Irish Government recognised the important role of the NIMF and would be making a substantial financial contribution in due course.

  Following the set up of the Remembrance Commission in the Republic of Ireland Government the NIMF received a one-off donation of

1.25 million to assist with the vital work of the Fund.


Mission Statement

  The mission of the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund is to be the primary charity dedicated to introducing and sustaining programmes that support those who have suffered as a result of the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland, and to raising funds for that purpose.

Aims and Objectives

    —  To acknowledge and address the suffering of victims and survivors as identified by both the Good Friday Agreement and the report of the Northern Ireland Victims Commissioner, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield.

    —  To promote peace and reconciliation by demonstrating recognition of the needs of victims and survivors as an important part of the healing process in Northern Ireland.

    —  To understand the very specific needs of victims and survivors, identify the gaps in current provision, and develop and introduce measures that address those needs in a practical and meaningful way.

    —  To relieve some of the worry and pressure facing those who continue to experience financial or other difficulties as a result of shortfalls in the compensation process, or their personal experiences.

    —  To help victims and survivors to build a better future for themselves by providing them with support which alleviates immediate needs.

    —  To reach those whose needs have not been previously embraced or have not received help from existing support groups and organisations working with victims and survivors.

    —  To develop an international network of individuals and organisations to provide funding to support and sustain the work of the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund.

    —  To raise awareness of the needs of victims and survivors so as to provide the wider community with the opportunity to support and contribute to the development of initiatives that will help those who have suffered and continue to suffer as a consequence of the conflict in Northern Ierland.

    —  To promote reconciliation between both sides of the community.


  The Directors initially spent several months researching and identifying the extent of the problems facing victims and survivors. Consultation and engagement with victims, survivors and support groups was an important part of this process, as the process itself demonstrated their suffering was at last being recognised. This was a vitally important exercise, as information and research indicating the likely extent of the problem, or the level of services currently available to victims and survivors, was neither documented nor readily available. Statistical research had been carried out by the Cost of the Troubles Study (COTTS). It revealed that by 3 December 1997, 3,585 people had been killed in Northern Ireland since 1969. Further analysis of these deaths revealed the following:

    (a)  The dead were predominantly male (91%)

    (b)  They were predominantly within age groups with a considerable expectation of further life (37% under 24, 53% under 29, 74% under 39).

    (c)  53% of the dead were civilians with no affiliation to any security force or paramilitary organisation. A further 29% were serving members of the security forces (15% from outside Northern Ireland and 14% from locally-recruited Royal Ulster Constabulary, Ulster Defence Regiment or Royal Irish Regiment, including almost 300 police officers); 13% of the dead were Republican paramilitaries, and just over 3% Loyalist paramilitaries.

    (d)  The death rate has been higher within the Roman Catholic than the Protestant population (2.5 per 1,000 for the Roman Catholic population and 1.9 per 1,000 for the Protestant population).

  There have, unfortunately, been further deaths since December 1997, bringing the death toll to nearly 3,700.

  Much more difficult to determine are the living causalities of the past thirty years of conflict. These are families—mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters—of up to 3,700 people who last their lives. The possible permutations do not easily facilitate an accurate calculation. There are also those who were injured, both physically and psychologically, and their families. Work by COTTS and others suggests that there have been over forty thousand injured. This is a frightening statistic in Northern Ireland of only 1.6 million people.


  Against the background of these statistics, and building upon the work already carried out by both Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and the Victims' Liaison Unit, the Directors of the Fund met with victims, survivors and groups supporting them to hear at first hand the problems faced by individuals and their families. These meetings were often emotional, as many victims and survivors are only now coming forward and only now beginning the process of confronting their grief. Following these meetings and subsequent discussions, the Directors agreed to focus the Fund's initial response in five distinct areas, as follows.

Pain Relief and Respite Care

  Many individuals have suffered horrendous physical, psychological and emotional injuries. These have not only affected their own quality of life and standard of living, but also that of their families. Many family members are now full-time Carers, devoted to looking after loved ones. Careers have been sacrificed and dreams have been dashed. For the injured, it can be a daily battle to overcome their pain, discomfort or disability, and many face a life-long struggle to come to terms with the physical and emotional trauma. There are specific needs for pain relief and respite care that can be addressed through a better understanding and interpretation of the needs of victims, and which are not being addressed through conventional health and social services mechanisms.

Trauma and Counselling

  As the peace process develops, more and more victims and survivors are coming forward to seek help for the very first time. Many have never spoken of their experiences, and many have been unable to work through their trauma. In some cases whole families have not spoken about incidents that happened as long as ten or twenty years ago, often involving the death of a family member. Support groups are reporting an increase in referrals for counselling, mainly from new members. There is much healing to be done and a tremendous need for trauma counselling that will be focused on the very specific needs of victims and survivors.

Financial Hardship

  Of those killed, 91% were male. In many cases they were husbands and fathers, and often the sole providers for their families. Many widows, widowers and grandparents were left with the responsibility of providing for children as best they could. Many faced and continue to face financial difficulties, often as a result of shortfalls in the compensation process, which have compounded over the years. Many continue to struggle to maintain a very basic standard of living for themselves and their children. This legacy of hardship is not just a symptom of inadequacies in the social services or compensation system. It is compounded by the unique position of victims, who through basic pride or desire to remain anonymous for reasons of personal security or special needs cannot access the help they require.

Training and Education

  Children and young people have been particularly affected. The loss of a parent, brother or sister; the loss of a close family member or other significant influence in their lives; a personal injury or traumatic experience have often resulted in serious disruption to their education. Opportunities have been missed and many, through no fault of their own, have under-achieved academically or been unable to pursue their education or careers for financial or physiological reasons. Adults also have been forced to abandon their chosen career because of psychological or physical injury. There is a need to provide special help to enable these people to access the opportunities available to realise their legitimate ambitions.


  Many community groups have developed to support victims and survivors. These groups will grow, develop and continue to provide support to victims and survivors into the twenty-first century. The Memorial Fund will act to complement the work of these groups, and where we can to assist them to provide recognition to victims and survivors. Simple recognition of their needs, and acknowledgement of their hurt is an issue that comes through as a priority time and time again. The Fund will continue to liaise regularly with support groups to identify needs and respond positively where possible. We will help give a voice to the needs of victims and survivors.


  Whilst many victims and survivors of the conflict receive emotional help and support from victims groups within their communities there is very little work going on in the area of reconciliation. The Fund feels this is a very important part of the healing process and want to progress this work further.


  With the aim of providing victims and survivors with the recognition and support they deserve, the Directors of the Fund have commenced the process of introducing and developing measures aimed at providing help and support at a practical and meaningful level. This includes programmes aimed at providing assistant to obtain essential household items and services, respite breaks, pain relief treatment, counselling services, educational assistance, training grants, other practical help and reconciliation projects as follows:

  A Chronic Pain Management Scheme was launched in May 2000. This scheme addresses some of the difficulties experienced by chronic pain suffers who must join normal National Health Service (NHS) waiting lists for appointments with Pain Management Consultants. The Scheme provides a grant of up to Stg £2,000 to enable chronic pain suffers to receive several private treatments per year. The flexibility this scheme offers ensures that victims and survivors can receive prompt treatment from the consultant of their choice. In exceptional cases a grant of up to Stg£7,000 is available where a consultant recommends a surgical implant designed to block pain as the most appropriate form of treatment.

  An Amputee Assessment Scheme was introduced on 18 April 2001 with the support of the Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety, and the Centre for Rehabilitation Medicine at Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast. This scheme will look at addressing the specific needs of individuals who have lost limbs. Following a positive assessment (in any country) by a recognised consultant in rehabilitation medicine, the Fund will provide a grant to obtain a better or more suitable prosthesis where the consultant determines this would enhance the mobility or quality of life of the amputee.

  A Wheelchair Assessment Scheme was also launched on 18 April 2001 with the support of the Department of Health, Social Services & Public Safety, and the Regional Disablement Services in Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast. This scheme will look at addressing the mobility needs of victims who require the use of a wheelchair. Following a positive assessment (in any country) by a recognised community occupational therapist or suitably qualified technician, the Fund will provide a grant to obtain a lighter or more suitable wheelchair, where the assessment determines this would enhance the mobility or quality of life of the user.

  A Short Break Scheme was introduced in May 2000 to allow victims and their immediate families the opportunity to avail where needed of a beneficial rest, away from their usual surroundings and responsibilities. Approximately 2,300 individuals and families have benefited from the scheme which provided short breaks for people located throughout England, Scotland Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Trauma and Counselling

  In 1998 the Department of Health and Social Services Inspectorate published a report "Living with the Trauma of the "Troubles"", which identified numerous concerns about trauma counselling. There were many concerns regarding the level of expertise attained by individual practitioners and the degree of supervision that they receive. There was a clear need to improve the channels available to victims and survivors requiring trauma counselling, but not all of the solutions were clear.

  A follow-on review group was set up to identify and promote good practice examples, suggest minimum counselling standards, and recommend appropriate qualifications, accreditation and supervisions requirements for counsellors. This is an area which the Fund is currently trying to address.

  The Small Grants Scheme was introduced on 30 November 1999, aimed at providing victims who are currently experiencing financial difficulties, with small grants up to a maximum of Stg£500 to assist with the purchase of essential households items and services, such as cookers, washing machines, school uniforms, minor household maintenance etc. This scheme, with its modest grant, has proved to be the largest single source of recognition for victims and survivors addressing real need at a very basic level, but in a very practical and personal way.

  Discretionary Hardship Scheme was introduced in September 2003 aimed at individuals who have lost the main breadwinner as a result of the Troubles. This is the only one of the Fund schemes which is means tested and applicants are assessed on the basis of a home visit. This Fund has provided very practical help to those in need.

  Winter Assistance Grant was introduced in December 2004 to assist applicants over the age of 60 years with the additional costs associated with the winter months such as heating, electricity etc.

  An Education and Training Scheme was introduced on 1 July 2001. This scheme aims to help both children and adults whose education has been fractured by their experiences, and adults who require re-skilling or re-training. The scheme provides victims and survivors with the opportunity to continue or further their education or training to realise their legitimate ambitions, by providing grants of up to Stg£1,200 towards subscription, enrolment or entrance fees, attendance and course fees, educational books and aids, home study courses, tuition, skills training, career development or other relevant extra curricular activities etc. The scheme will particularly focus on providing help during the transition points in the education system.


  The Fund continues to promote reconciliation through a series of cross community projects. Group trips are organised several times each year bringing both individuals and families from both communities together, letting them share their experiences in a safe environment and form new friendships.

  In addition to these trips projects have also been arranged through a cross community Christian Housing Association, Habitat for Humanity. Each year the Fund takes groups of young adults to places such as Romania, Hungary and Costa Rica to work as a team on a building site building houses for families living in poverty. These trips bring the young people together to form friendships and give them a real sense of achievement in helping those a lot less fortunate than themselves.


  All of the programmes introduced by the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund can be accessed by victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles regardless of their current geographic location. The Directors of the Fund are conscious that many individuals in England and the Republic of Ireland, for example, have suffered as a result of incidents in those locations. Indeed, many individuals affected in Northern Ireland are now residing in other parts of the British Isles and further afield. The Small Grants Scheme has awarded grants to individuals residing throughout the British Isles and the Republic of Ireland, as far afield as Austria and Canada.


  From the outset, the Fund's Directors have consulted with individual victims and victim support groups before developing and introducing new schemes, and have received very positive feedback. Many hundreds of letters have been received from individuals who have benefited from one or other of the Fund's initiatives. It is transparently clear from those letters that the Memorial Fund is making a difference by providing support and recognition in a practical and personal way. The following is a sample of just some of the comments the fund has received.

  From the Project Co-ordinator of a victim support group whose members attended the Edinburgh Respite Weekend.

    "All those who were on the Edinburgh Weekend have been singing the praises of the good work of the Memorial Fund. I am really pleased that everything went well, and especially pleased that some of our members have at last been recognised."

  From a man severely injured in the early seventies who received assistance from the Small Grants Scheme.

    "I thought we were the forgotten people of the Troubles, but thanks to the Memorial Fund a human face and care shines through. I hope you know how much your help is appreciated from me and my wife."

  From a woman whose husband was killed in the late seventies.

    "I would like to thank the Memorial Fund for all the help given to me and my family last year. You would have no idea the difference it made to us. I have never been on a proper holiday from 1987. My daughter and I went to London to see my other daughter and we had a lovely time together. The help buying some furniture was wonderful, but the gift at Christmas was the best surprise I got this year. I cannot thank you all enough. For over 20 years I gave my children first place in my life. I didn't know what it was like to be able to do something for myself, or even about it."

  From a man who lost several members of his family.

    "I would like to thank the Memorial Fund for their kindness in sending me a £50 Christmas present. I am also deeply grateful for the grant that you awarded me not so long ago. I know of no other organisation that helps the victims of the Troubles and their families more than the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund."

  From a woman whose father was killed.

    "Thank you so much for the Christmas gift cheque. It was a wonderful and much appreciated surprise. The money helped ease the financial burden of Christmas. The gesture was a bit of emotional support at the time of the year when we miss our loved ones; it feels good to be remembered. The Memorial Fund has been a tremendous boost for me throughout all of last year."

  From a man who was shot several times, and survived.

    "I would like to thank the Memorial Fund for the cheque you sent out at Christmas. This is the first help I have ever had from any quarter since my injuries in 1972. I hope the Small Grants Scheme will be continued, as it has taken a lot of pressure off me."

  From a man whose wife was killed.

    "Many thanks for the Small Grant and the gift of £50, it came at a time when I needed it, also when I was felling very low. You think you are forgotten, but then you realise someone is thinking of you."

  From a woman whose husband was killed.

    "After many years of feeling very alone it was most touching to find people thinking and acting for victims in a most practical manner. Words cannot express how your thoughtfulness went some way to making Christmas better."

  From the chairperson of a group supporting victims.

    "I believe the Memorial Fund is a real sign to the victims that at last they are being recognised and remembered."

  From a retired couple whose son was killed in the 1980s. "We find this is the first time in over 10 years that anything has been offered to us as victims. We are delighted that now, after so long, the victims are being recognised at grass roots."


  Like most charities, the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund relies on the support of the wider community to introduce and sustain measures to meet its aims. Aside from support offered by local and regional community groups, there is no other charity in Ireland, north or south, with the objective to provide victims and survivors with the recognition and range of practical assistance proposed by the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund.


Remembering the Past by Building the Future

  Northern Ireland has changed greatly. The Good Friday Agreement and the devolution of powers to the new Northern Ireland Assembly has led to a real sense of hope in the hearts and minds of the people of Northern Ireland. Despite setbacks, this hope and confidence in a brighter future continues to grow. But for casualties of 30 years of conflict—the relatives of up to 3,700 people who lost their lives and over 40,000 individuals estimated to have been injured—the damage is permanent. For them, life will never be what it once was. For these individuals and families, every day is an act of courage that has gone unnoticed. Indeed, many have built on their devastating experiences to make enormous contributions to the lives of others.

  The Northern Ireland Memorial Fund seeks to ensure that these victims and survivors are not forgotten. Their example of how to overcome adversity is an example to the wider community. Their suffering must inspire us to do everything in our power to build a better future for everyone in Northern Ireland.

  The Northern Ireland Memorial Find will promote peace and reconciliation by supporting those who have suffered, providing them with help and support to aid them in building a better future for themselves.

January 2005

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