Although I knew people who died as a result of the Troubles…old school friends, neighbours, colleagues and attended several funerals, I cannot claim to be a victim. No family member died.
I therefore often wonder how I would have reacted to being a victim. Well…….on second thoughts……I was a “victim” of sorts in 1974. And maybe this gives a clue as to what kind of real victim, I would have been had a family member been killed.
I gun was placed into my mouth and I was threatened that if I said anything I would “get my f***ing head blown off”. Beyond that, I dont want to go into details except that maybe ten years later (I was certainly married) someone suggested to me that I could get compensation for the incident. I phoned the Compensation people….and they literally laughed. There was a time limit on making claims…..as I recall it was two weeks in respect of property and four weeks in respect of personal injury.
As we all know in 2012, we are bombarded with adverts telling us that “where there is blame, there is a claim” and that sometimes “sorry is not enough”.
So my experiences with the “compensation people” as well as the incident itself colours my views as to “victims”. Put bluntly, in 1974 the incident in which I was involved……the gun in my mouth, the tied up with masking tape, the good cop-bad cop interview, Larry McCoubrey reporting the news of “my” incident on BBC Norn Iron and the six months of anxiety reviewing my witness statement with the “good cop” who went on to achieve very high rank in the RUC……..and the anxiety of thinking that I might have to give evidence against paramilitaries.
Now as it turned out, the people who committed this crime were arrested about a week after the incident and were jailed for a remarkably short time. They of course pleaded guilty, not just to that one incident but to a catalogue of other crimes.
Now again, I do not wish to be too specific…..but I think it says something for the kind of victim that I was…….NAIVE. For remarkably there is an invisible line accross the Troubles where “victims” just accepted that stuff happened……and where victims realised (with the help of solicitors) that each incident carried a price tag. And on balance….rightly so. Because the trauma of a gun being shoved into your mouth, being tied up with masking tape, verbal threats, anxiety about a court case, the absence of a duty of care by an employer, the decision to leave a good job, to change address……is traumatic.
But yet my attitude to victimhood has always been that the Second Generation of Troubles Victim has had it easier than the First Generation (say 1969 to 1976) in terms of financial recompense.
But when I wonder what kind of victim …..or relative of a victim I might have been………I wonder if I could ever have been like Joyce McCartan the Catholic mother from the Ormeau Road who had two sons killed grotesquely and savagely by loyalist paramilitaries. Or Alan McBride, the Protestant from the Shankill area whose wife and baby were killed in the Shankill Bomb (planted by the IRA) in 1992. Both became advocates of Peace.
But we also have…..Willie Frazer….the loyalist from South Armagh. Fraser has lost four relatives, some members of the Ulster Defence Regiment to IRA violence. I dont intend to speak about Fraser in detail. He does feature on Wikipedia, where it is alleged that his Families Acting for Innocent Families (FAIR) charity has had funding withdrawn (and action taken to recover several thousand pounds) and that he has expressed support for collusion between British/RUC and loyalists.
Certainly the example of Mrs McCartan and Mr McBride have shown that many victims spokespersons can be very “inclusive” while the example of Mr Fraser is that they can be extremely exclusive. I dont know the kind of victim I would have been. I have always been relunctant to criticise Fraser. That he has suffered is not in doubt…that he has the right to vigourously campaign for what he believes is not in doubt.
But frankly Fraser has been given too much space by the Media, not anxious to look too closely at him and the things he says. Victims are above criticism. Not least because Society has not worked out a way to deal with Victims…..and that their cause has been adopted by “conflict resolutionists” who manage to alienate everyone except of course each other in the academic community.
Fraser has plummeted to the depths this week. Spotting a tricolour flag at a Catholic primary school in Donaghmore, County Tyrone, he gave a predictably Fraser-like opinion on Facebook, that the school was “the junior headquarters of SF-IRA youth”. He “wounders” (sic) if “the children are being taught to use weapons”.
Alas Fraser was wrong. The tricolour flag was the tricolour flag of ITALY. He has apologised. But really it should be a watershed. Fraser’s rantings have been tolerated because he is a victim. The kind option is to think that he may have been turned into a nasty sectarian bigot by his experiences of losing relatives to IRA violence. Or the alternate version is that Fraser articulates a kind of squalid sectarianism which would not have been out of place in the Ulster Defence Regiment in the 1970s.
Either way, he must now be a busted flush. A man who was once courted by loyalist politicians and given a degree of respect that victimhood demands. His FAIR charity is a shell of what it once was. And at last the Media….well at least the Irish News……has the courage to call him out for what he is……(at best) a buffoon and an embarrassment.