Sinn Féin urged to apologise to families of IRA campaign in ‘specific way’

Former commissioner for victims says while First Minister Michelle O’Neill’s apology to families is a move in the right direction, Sinn Féin needs to be more clear about what it’s sorry for

Northern Ireland’s former commissioner for victims has called on Sinn Féin to apologise to families of alleged informers killed by the IRA in a “specific way” agreed to by the families.

The comments came after Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland, First Minister Michelle O’Neill, last week apologised to the families of alleged informers killed by the IRA.

However, Judith Thompson said that while Ms O’Neill’s apology to families was a move in the right direction, the party needed to be more clear about what it was sorry for.

Her comments followed the publication of the interim findings of Operation Kenova, which examined 101 murders and abductions linked to the Provisional IRA’s so-called “nutting squad”, which was responsible for interrogating, torturing and murdering people suspected of passing information to British security forces during the Troubles.

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The report calls on the republican leadership to apologise to bereaved relatives and victims of the IRA’s internal security unit (ISU) and those who suffered under linked campaigns of intimidation against them.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she has a sense of “sorrow and regret” for everyone who was hurt and harmed during the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Ms Thompson told BBC Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics show that this was a move in the “right direction”.

“But for an apology to be meaningful… it needs to be specific, it needs to be given in a way which has actually been agreed with the families involved as being what they need to see,” she added.

“What is said has to be what they need to hear. Also, it needs to be given at a place, a time and by a person that has meaning for them. This kind of statement is a look in the right direction, but it doesn’t deliver the apology.

“Apology without openness and information isn’t acknowledgment. The fact that there’s been an investigation, that the actual facts are acknowledged, and what the apology is for, is absolutely clear and acknowledged, is really important too.”

Ms Thompson said the report’s findings are “clear and unequivocal” for victims.

“It tells them that much of what they believed was correct, which tells them that what happened to them was wrong, should not have happened, and acknowledges the pain and the wrong that they suffered,” she added.

The report also calls on the British government to apologise for the security forces’ failings amid a “maverick” culture for handling agents and intelligence.

Ms Thompson said an apology from the government is “fundamental” to the families.

“The level of stigma, isolation (and) intimidation that these families were subjected to, often within their own communities and by those who perpetrated those murders, stand out. It must have been the most terrible experience,” she said.

“Acknowledgement is right up there in terms of what they want to see happen. Some people want prosecutions, other people feel differently. But the demand for truth and acknowledgment of the wrongness of it – I think those are the really important messages which this report steps towards, and apologies are clearly a part of that.” – PA

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