Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Hugh S Rowan


  I make this submission to the NI Affairs Committee as a Victim/Survivor of the NI Conflict. I like so many other Victims/Survivors in Northern Ireland am not represented by a Victims Support Group (VSG) and very dissatisfied at the way Victims/Survivors have been treated by the Government and Direct Rule Ministers. I became a Victim/Survivor in the early hours of 23 August 1972. I arrived home from work at approx 01:15 on the morning of the 23 and went upstairs to speak to my wife who was asleep and had wakened her when I came in. I had a brief chat with her and said that I would be up to bed shortly as I was having something to eat and a drink. I went downstairs and proceeded to make a sandwich and a drink. I have just returned to the living room with these when I heard a knock at the front door. I left my sandwich and drink on the coffee table and went to answer the door. I opened the door and was faced with two young men pointing guns at me. I just froze on the spot and they started shooting. My wife had heard the shooting and had came down the stairs to find out if I had heard it only to find me lying at the bottom of the stairs in a pool of blood. I was rushed to the RVH. Only for the skill of the surgeons in the Royal that morning I would have been another fatality of the Troubles.

  I recovered but not without problems. I have been left with a disability as one of the five bullets that hit me entered through the stomach and ended up in the spinal column. This causes me constant pain and discomfort regardless whither I walking, sitting or lying there is no getting away from the pain and discomfort and as I am getting older this problem is getting worse. I have lived with this and other problems relating to my injuries for 33 years. As there weren't any VSG's around in those days. After I was discharged from hospital I was left to fend for myself without any help or support from any quarter. When the VSG'S did start to come along I could not become a member as I did not fit into their remits, but once funding came along the VSG's had to widen their remits to obtain funding but still as I had came a very long way on my own I did not see the point in joining a VSG just like many other Victims/Survivors who Bloomfield in his report "We Will Remember Them" describes them as escaping the VSG net, but that isn't the case its just that there was no help for the early Victims of the troubles that they developed their own coping mechanisms such as prescribed drugs and alcohol or felt that they had no need for VSG's when they did come along.


  I spoke to Sir Kenneth Bloomfield during his consultations with Victims and explained what I had been through and how I felt about the way I had been treated. Bloomfield told me he had heard the story so many times before and what Victims have had to suffer he also assured me that the Victims/Survivors of the 70s (1968-1974) had been unfairly treated and poorly compensated and that he would be making recommendations to address that issue. When his report "We Will Remember Them" was launched in 1998 with great euphoria by the then Secretary of State for NI Dr Mo Molam she said that this was only the tip of the iceberg for Victims/Survivors. The iceberg that she spoke about at the launch was to very quickly disappear once the prisoner releases were secured which was a kick in the teeth for many Victims/Survivors. Furthermore Bloomfield failed to address the issue of the victims of the 70s . He stated in the report that Victims/Survivors of the 70s were unfairly treated and poorly compensated but he added that these cases could not be revisited which was at odds with what he led me and many others to believe. He did lead us up the garden path. I met with Bloomfield sometime later and asked why he stated the cases of the 70s could not be revisited and he told me that was not part of his remit. One wonders why he was appointed Victims Commissionaire when he wasn't given a full remit to carry out the report fairly on behalf of Victims/Survivors and why he visited different parts of the world to consult on how other countries were dealing with the victims of conflict.

  Looking back at the Victims/Survivors report "We Will Remember Them" it was Government manipulated to keep Victim/Survivors quite while the powers to be got on with the underhanded business of prisoner releases. If the Law can be changed to facilitate prisoners out of prison early then the Law can be changed to facilitate the Victims compensation. The old adage what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I feel that We Will Remember them was a whitewash to placate victims while the Government proceeded with prisoner releases. A copy of Bloomfield's report is available on the NIO website. These prisoners are free to get on with their lives back by government Victims/Survivors who have been left injured/disabled haven't been as fortunate.


  I feel that some of the other issues to be addressed is The Definition of a Victim as Bloomfield failed to do this as he said that was for someone else some other day. The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister attempted to do this in their Victims Stratagity paper and I like many others find this definition which can be found in section 3. As you are aware there are Victims and there are Innocent Victims. I as a person who has been seriously injured feel insulted to think perpetrators have the same entitlement to victimhood as I and thousands of others who have been killed injured or maimed at the hands of either republican or loyalist paramilitaries. I feel that the families of paramilitaries who were killed injured or imprisoned should not have the same rights to victimhood as the people who were going about their Legal and Lawful way of life when victimhood was bestowed upon them. The majority of people who were to become victims did not want any part of the Troubles until we were dragged into it. We did not choose to be Victims/Survivors.


  This is a very important issue and needs to be addressed especially for the Victims of the 70's as explained were unfairly treated and poorly compensated. Bloomfield mentioned this in his report but Government conveniently didn't address this as they feared it may cost top much. You know that from common knowledge that when you get a festering sore you go to the doctor or hospital and get it seen to, and it is exactly the same with the Compensation Issue it has grown into a bigger festering sore since 1998 because Government failed to address this Issue then. I have said before that if the Government can change the law to let convicted terrorists/murders out of their prison sentences early they should have changed the Law to address the Victims Compensation Issue. I know that we all have to move forward but the Government are moving prisoners on a lot further than the Victims and have given more money to prisoners than they have to Victims. Where is the Justice in that? Remember that it has been the Victims/Survivors who have lost most and have paid the highest price in the peace process and have been treated rather shabbily by successive Governments. Victims themselves need financial help and not just money thrown at the problem which Government has being doing in the past and `the one size fits all' attitude that Government has adopted towards Victims doesn't work.


  With Hugh Orde being given £30 million to solve the 1,800-2,000 murders of the troubles whither this brings Justice/closure for the families who have lost loved ones remains to be seen. What bothers me now is the unsolved Crimes/attempted murders during the Troubles. Cases such as mine where nobody was ever brought to Justice. Are these cases just to be ignored or am I not entitled to Justice such as the families of the bereaved are. I could say without any fear of contradiction that the guys who called to my door at 01:30 and put five bullets into me and left me like a dog in a pool of blood meant to kill me. To me that is an unsolved crime of the troubles.


  Again another topic from "We Will Remember Them" where Bloomfield talks about a Memorial Garden. I am in favour of a Memorial but not in the shape of a Garden as the families of Republican & Loyalist perpetrators/killers would high-jack this and this would become a shrine to the killing machines of both republican and Loyalist organisations leaving it uncomfortable to the families of Innocent Victims to visit. I would suggest a large Water Feature with a seated area around it to be erected at the Front entrance of Stormont. That would remind the Government, politicians and the general public on a daily basis the price that was paid in human life, suffering and pain for the privilege of a Northern Ireland Devolved Assembly. I would also suggest that if this suggestion is acted upon all flags, symbols and emblems would have to be banned to ensure that a safe area is created so as it is free from intimidation /harassment for the families of Innocent Victims visiting this Memorial.


  I feel that an NI Truth Commission is not applicable at the moment. The way certain political parties are behaving and bending the TRUTH to suit their own political and personal agendas stinks. We have had examples such as Martin Maguinness' testimony to the Bloody Sunday Enquiry. |that he would rather die than divulge information in the questions he was asked so if we are to have TRUTH it must be the full TRUTH and not someone else's half baked perceptions of what the TRUTH is.

  One wonders where the "ICEBERG" Mighty Mo spoke about went to. As for We Will Remember Them I think that has long gone out the window. The report was launched in 1998 it is now 2005 and Victims/Survivors are still fighting to have their Issues fully addressed. I hope that the Affairs Committee will be able to address the issues I have outlined here as this incident has totally changed my life and left me a life of pain, suffering, hardship, trauma and other problems. As a person who has suffered over the years I eel that I can only set out what affects me in this submission but I know from hundreds like myself who were killed or injured in isolated incidents throughout the troubles feel that both the Compensation issue and the definition of an innocent Victim would be of major importance to us.

  I would be prepared to meet a representative for the NI Affairs Committee to re-enforce and prove what I have said in my submission is true and correct.

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