Legacy Issues Affecting Victims and Relatives in Northern Ireland: Discussion (Resumed)

Our last meeting was on legacy issues and we are following on from that today. I welcome our witnesses, Ms Sandra Peake, chief executive officer, and Mr. Dennis Godfrey, board member, WAVE Trauma Centre, and Mr. Brian Gormally, director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice.

I ask members and those in the Visitors Gallery to switch off their phones completely as they interfere with the recording equipment. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

I invite Ms Peake to make her opening statement.

Ms Sandra Peake

We thank the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement for inviting representation from WAVE in respect of the debate on legacy issues affecting victims and survivors. WAVE is one of the longest standing voluntary organisations working across Northern Ireland and has been providing services to victims and survivors of the Troubles on a cross-community basis since 1991. While the Good Friday Agreement will be in place 20 years in 2018, the demand for services from WAVE has not diminished. Year on year, we see a sizable number of people presenting with issues related to the 1970s and 1980s. In the last year, we have had 650 new referrals from people between the ages of six and 90 years.

Those who hope that time and mortality will bring closure to the past do so in vain. Many victims and survivors have struggled with the consequences of the failure to implement a comprehensive and inclusive process to deal with the past. We look back at the Bloomfield report of 1998, the Eames-Bradley report of 2009, and Haass-O’Sullivan report of 2013. We are now at the Stormont House Agreement, which we believe will be the last attempt by the UK Government to address the legacy of the past. While we accept that the priority must be getting the legal aspects of it right, and we welcome the fact there has been some suggestion of consultation, we want to raise a number of fundamental concerns. They are based on the fact that there is a lack of information about what will be included in the legislation. We also want to highlight to the committee the fact there has been a glaring and shameful omission from the Stormont House Agreement of any proposal to address the plight of those injured as a result of the Troubles.

Moving on to the historic investigations unit, HIU, in our experience, the majority of people who come to WAVE will not be interested in, or concerned about, the legislative frameworks. What they want is confidence in the process; clear information about how and when they can access the process; and to trust that the process will work for them. The simple fact of passing legislation will not do that. There should be a process that will investigate all cases. Prosecution should be undertaken if the evidential test is met. Individuals and families should have the right to access to as much information as possible. We remain concerned about a number of issues in respect of this, namely, the five-year timeframe and the caseload. Given the number of cases, we think the five-year timeframe is hopelessly unrealistic and potentially fatal to the credibility of the whole project. With cases from the mid-1980s to 2001, there are likely to be more evidential opportunities, meaning that those cases may be more complex rather than less so. We were very struck that the Police Ombudsman, Dr. Michael Maguire, has told individuals and families that some inquiries may take up to two decades because of pressure on resources. He had written earlier to 130 families to say he did not know when their cases would start.

We are also concerned about the resources of £150 million. We understand that the UK Government has indicated it will make a contribution of that amount but it is not clear where the other contributions are coming from. We are mindful that, in respect of the steak knife inquiry alone, the Chief Constable has said it will take £35 million to investigate 50-odd cases. That is 25% of the budget. What will happen to all the other families that are left? We are concerned that high profile, political cases will get precedence over those that have not been in the public eye beyond the day of the murder. Those families have been left within their community.

We are concerned about the structure of the historic inquiry team. We do not want it to be just another police investigative body. In the past, they have failed to provide adequately for victims and survivors. The structure and operational delivery of the HIU needs to be genuinely victim centred. We want it to build trust and confidence. We want the structures to be set out right at the start. We welcome the fact that there will be reports and, we hope, information provided to families. We hope there will be a commitment to providing that. We are also mindful that there can be issues about retraumatisation when families get information they do not expect to hear. While we appreciate this is not an issue for this committee, there needs to be resources to ensure that individuals and families are supported. We also want to ensure that the HIU is not overly legalistic. There should not be a bar in place for families who cannot afford legal input or do not want to be legally represented. If it becomes too legalistic it may fail produce the reports that families need. Whatever shape the process takes, we want to ensure that there is proper care and support for victims throughout.

We remain concerned about the geographical remit of the HIU. We have concern about what will happen for people who were killed in the South or who were abducted from the North and their bodies found in the South. We have made representations to the Governments and those in policy areas, and have received conflicting advice. We have been told that some cases may be included depending on their proximity to the Border; that an equivalent HIU could be established in Dublin; or that the cases will go through the cold case review team from the Garda Síochána. There needs to be a process that is equal. Families should not be treated differently. There needs to be an investigative process in place.

There is little confidence among the victims and survivors we work with that the Independent Commission for Information Retrieval, ICIR, will provide meaningful information. There are issues around whether there is corporate responsibility and what that means. We have seen similar difficulties in respect of the families of the disappeared. Considering the timeframe of five years and the Independent Commission for the Disappeared, a five-year timeframe would have meant that only four of the disappeared would have been recovered. The fact is that the work takes much longer than a five-year term. We also believe there should be a mechanism for apology if families view that as appropriate.

If the Stormont House Agreement is implemented tomorrow, a big question arises: what process does it provide for those injured and their families? In 2012, WAVE commissioned a study by the University of Surrey to examine the needs of the injured. It highlighted people's financial and practical needs and their need for relief of chronic and debilitating pain.

They needed to have suitable limbs to have comfort and full mobility and wheelchairs or adaptions to enable independent living. They were prioritised over any investigative processes. It was fourth on the list. It was there, but fourth on the list.
The WAVE Injured Group has campaigned over the past five years to have a special pension in place to support those injured and their carers because many people have outlived the compensation payments they were given 30 to 40 years ago. In some cases, those payments were quite derisory. Comprehensive work has been undertaken by a group of injured people who continue to fight for a pension. We have lobbied political parties over and over again and, while they all acknowledge there should be a special pension for those injured, the DUP and Sinn Féin have been unable to agree who will receive it. The Secretary of State has indicated that he cannot implement it. This is a central issue for people in the context of their legacy, that is, what it means for them. While we recognise that this does not fall within the remit of the committee or the gift of the Irish Government, we urge the committee to use whatever influence it can to move the issue on.
In terms of dealing comprehensively with the legacy of the past, much will depend on how victims and survivors view the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement. They cannot be told once again that they will have to wait while we try again. We also need to assist society in Northern Ireland and beyond to be more aware of the longer-term impact of bereavement, injury and traumatisation. The lessons should be gathered from victims themselves, counsellors and psychotherapists about the human impact of the Troubles. WAVE has a strong trauma education arm as well as a service delivery arm. We deliver a BSc honours course in psychological trauma at Queen's University Belfast. We also have a new postgraduate online trauma studies pathway. It was approved last week by University College Cork. Collating and learning the lessons of the past is essential for our future.
In closing, I wanted to raise the issue of the disappeared during the Troubles. We wish to place on record our sincere thanks to the Irish Government for its continued support. We gave evidence to this committee in December 2013. Since then, the remains of four of the disappeared have been recovered and returned to their families for Christian burial. The most recent, Seamus Ruddy, was buried in June. The significance for the families involved cannot be overestimated. There are now three outstanding disappeared cases, namely, those relating to Joe Lynskey, Columba McVeigh and Robert Nairac. Columba McVeigh will be 42 years missing on Hallowe'en, 31 October. His mother's dying wish was that he would be laid to rest between her and his father in the family grave. We urge anyone who can help the commission to locate the bodies of the disappeared to do so. They need to be brought home.

Mr. Brian Gormally

I thank the Chairman for the opportunity to address this important committee. At a time when the Good Friday Agreement is potentially under threat from, among other things, the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, the committee's deliberations are particularly important. CAJ is a human rights organisation. The first duty of a human rights organisation in a post-conflict society is to try to protect the peace. We believe that the legacy issue has direct relevance to the peace settlement and that it involves many threatening problems that remain unresolved. In one sense, it is misleading to think of these matters as relating to the past. The deaths and injuries during the conflict occurred in the past but the failure to properly deal with the issues arising is very much a matter of the present. In our view, from a human rights perspective, the issue is about the deplorable maintenance of impunity for past crimes.

"Impunity" is the term used for a systemic failure to hold people, especially state agents, accountable for human rights violations. It is hugely destructive of the rule of law and erodes faith in the justice system and state institutions in general. The longer it goes on, the more it poisons contemporary society, even when it relates to crimes of the past. A failure to hold a state to account for patterns of past human rights violations fuels the risk that they will be repeated at home and abroad when similar circumstances arise. This is why impunity is a prime target of human rights activists throughout the world. The failure on the part of the UK Government to properly investigate many of the deaths and maimings that occurred during the conflict, in our view, amounts to a maintenance of impunity. Nineteen years after the Good Friday Agreement and 16 years after the landmark rulings by the European Court of Human Rights in Northern Ireland cases on the obligation to investigate deaths, there is no proper system to deal with these matters.

We had hoped that, by now, such a comprehensive system, based on the proposals in the Stormont House Agreement, would have been at least established in law. Unfortunately, the UK Government continues to evade its responsibilities, frequently hiding behind the fact that policing and justice are matters devolved to the Northern Ireland Administration. We need to stress that the international duty to eradicate impunity and the obligation to properly investigate the past rest with the UK Government. A state cannot avoid its responsibilities because of its internal devolution arrangements. For the time being, what we have called the "apparatus of impunity" remains in existence.

The Stormont House Agreement of 2014 lays out the basis for a mechanism to deal with continuing impunity and to help resolve many of the continuing problems arising out of the past. As members will know, the agreement provides for a set of new institutions to deal with the past in Northern Ireland. These are the historical investigations unit, an independent commission on information retrieval, an oral history archive, and an implementation and reconciliation group. It also provides recommendations for services for victims and survivors, including a mental trauma service. The implementation of these institutions, however, requires detailed legislation. Such legislation was scheduled to be introduced in Westminster in October 2015. This did not happen but, in the meantime, CAJ, together with academics from Queen's University and individual experts produced a model Bill that demonstrated how the agreement could be brought into operation in a human rights compliant manner. Copies of the model Bill and explanatory notes have been given to the committee secretariat.

After the negotiations on implementation broke down in late 2015, primarily as a result of the UK Government’s insistence on a national security veto on information disclosed to families, we prepared a model mechanism for information redaction. This proposed a judge-based appeal mechanism and detailed criteria for the disclosure of information. These documents are also with the committee's secretariat. They were passed to the two Governments in May 2016 and we published them earlier this year but there is still no indication of the UK Government's position will be on its demand for a national security veto.

The current situation is that consultation on draft legislation has repeatedly been promised by the UK Government but has so far failed to materialise. This September, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, reflecting on the 16 years since the European Court of Human Rights gave judgment in the McKerr group of cases, which are the leading cases on this matter, noted with deep concern that the historical investigations unit and the other institutions had not been set up. The committee stated that it is "imperative" that the British Government bring forward these proposals as soon as possible. Yesterday, I heard that, in the absence of a deal between the two main parties at Stormont, the UK Government will bring forward some form of consultation before Christmas. Having said that, we have heard it before and we do not know if it will materialise.

The Committee of Ministers also criticised the UK Government for not giving the Lord Chief Justice the resources to put forward his plan in terms of legacy inquests. That proposal for funding was blocked personally by the then First Minister, Arlene Foster, but the UK Government has failed to bypass that blockage and the responsibility in this regard remains with it.

As we do every six months, we gave a report to the committee of Ministers which detailed progress in the last period, or lack of it. It also set out an account of some of the relevant court proceedings continuing at the present time. That report is with the committee secretariat. Just at the end of last week, the courts announced that judicial reviews and other proceedings with a legacy element will be fast-tracked in order to minimise delays for victims. This is to be welcomed and demonstrates that the Judiciary is prepared to do its duty. This is in stark contrast to the executive branch of government. In passing, I note that judgment in the "hooded men" case - another legacy case - will be handed down tomorrow at 11 a.m. in Belfast. We do not know what that will be but it is an important case concerning people who were injured - or tortured in this case - during the conflict. It is not only about deaths.

The current position is that the UK Government remains in violation of its duty under Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights to properly investigate deaths and serious injuries. Impunity for state actors is maintained, the victims remain deprived of justice and faith in the rule of law and in the peace process continues to be undermined. I hope the joint committee can bring its influence to bear and encourage the UK Government to implement the solutions to this deplorable situation.

I will open the session up to questions now. Deputy Brendan Smith has indicated and we will start with him.

I welcome our three witnesses and thank Ms Sandra Peake and Mr. Brian Gormally for the clarity in their presentations. We heard Ms Peake give an important presentation at the committee a number of years ago. In her concluding remarks, she spoke about the bodies of the disappeared and the three which were still, unfortunately, missing. Around that time also, the Commissioners for the Location of Victims' Remains, Mr. Murray and his colleague, addressed the committee subsequent to Ms Peake. That was an important presentation also. I proposed to the committee that we would invite the commissioners back. We have to try to maintain an awareness that any shred of information out there which might be helpful in locating those people and bringing them home to their families for Christian burial is extremely important. It is most disappointing that, after so many years, there are still three people who were abducted, killed and buried secretly who have not been located. That is deplorable. I hope we will be in a position to meet the commissioners so that they can get a message out to the public that if someone has information that he or she thinks might be of benefit, he or she should come forward.

Ms Peake mentioned early on in her presentation that the Police Ombudsman has indicated very clearly that he does not have the resources to carry out the investigations in a meaningful way. Time is going by and many of the families who want to see justice and to know what happened are getting older. With every day that passes, it is more difficult and the grief will continue to grow. It is deplorable and reprehensible that whatever funding is necessary is not provided by government to ensure that meaningful investigations are carried out as quickly as possible. All of us live in the real world and know it will not be easy to conclude such investigations. Can the witnesses indicate what the committee could recommend within a realistic framework to the British Government and the Irish Government? What amount of money is needed and what personnel resources are required? Mr. Gormally said the fact that there has not been an Executive, with justice matters devolved to it, in Northern Ireland for almost 12 months means valuable time is being lost in the carrying out of that work.

I commend the work of the witnesses' organisations. While it must be very difficult, it is important that families have organisations and representative groups to go to and to advocate on their behalf. As Mr. Gormally said, their problems and these legacy issues are unresolved and they cannot remain so.

Mr. Dennis Godfrey

As Ms Peake mentioned, one of our concerns in the context of resources is with what we know of how the historical investigations unit may operate. I do not have figures for the ombudsman, but I am sure he would indicate how much he needs to resolve his cases. While I think the figure is likely to be higher, let us take for illustrative purposes a figure of 1,000 cases to be looked at in a five-year period. The members can correct my sums if they are inaccurate. It would be a clear-up rate of approximately 50 cases a year from day one, which is four cases a week. There is no investigative service in the world that is clearing up historic cases at a rate of four a week. The illustrative figure in terms of resources is highlighted by Stakeknife, which involved 50 cases. As the Chief Constable indicated when he was setting up what has become Operation Kenova, these would require this magic five-year period and £35 million to resolve. That is equivalent to 25% of the entire £150 million, which was also to cover the independent commission on information retrieval, the archive, trends and all of that. If we take a notional figure of 1,000 cases, that is 25% to cover approximately 5% of them. I do not know if that is a direct illustration of the resources required to do the job comprehensively, but it gives some indication of the scale of what is involved.

Fundamentally, WAVE's issue is that we do not want promises being made to victims and survivors which simply cannot be met. We cannot keep doing this. We have been doing it for years. As Deputy Brendan Smith rightly pointed out, we were here in 2013 and again in 2015. If one goes back over the record, I bet the presentations we made were not a lot different. We could have made the same presentation in 2003. That is a fundamental issue. This will be the last go at it, I think, and, somehow, we have to get it right. We must ensure that promises are not made to victims that we know cannot be delivered on.

I commend the witnesses on their presentations and take this opportunity, having had first-hand experience - as I indicated at the previous meeting - of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains, to compliment them on the work they have done. I reiterate Deputy Brendan Smith's call to anybody out there with additional information, particularly as I have experienced, at first hand, the sensitivity with which the commission has dealt with some of the more recent locations.

Mr. Gormally stated that the UK is in violation of its responsibility, which is a strong statement and one with which I obviously concur. Does he care to comment on the impact these delays on legacy issues may be having on the fragile peace process? I ask that question in the context, again, of a visit we had in Belfast where the older generation involved in the conflict saw no reason to encourage the younger generations to have faith either in the delivery of peace money down to where it needs to go or in the fact that legacy issues will be dealt with. We were seen to be at a stalemate.

My second question relates to Brexit. While we all recognise that the British Government has a responsibility to the Good Friday Agreement, is it important that, as part of its withdrawal from the EU, Britain should be encouraged or made to ring-fence substantial funding to deal with the legacy issues? Regardless of Brexit, it might still be in possible violation of its responsibility to ring-fence funds to build on the peace process.

In addition, there is the question of ensuring that Westminster continues to subscribe to the various programmes that are necessary for the bedding down of the peace.

Mr. Brian Gormally

The failure to deal with legacy issues certainly is a threat to the peace process. Consider, for example, a young man living in a deprived area of the North - we will say he is from a republican background - who is being told that we have had a peace process and everything is different now and that he is living in a society that is rights-based and fair to all. However, that young fellow can see for himself what is happening in regard to legacy issues and that the basic responsibilities of the state in the context of dealing with murders and maimings are not being carried out. There may be an argument that this is difficult stuff and, of course, that is true at one level. However, what we must look at here is Deputy Brenda Smith's question about resources and what is being done in that regard. The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland has put forward a plan to deal with all legacy inquests within five years, which he will do as long as he is given the money. As I said earlier, that proposal was blocked by the First Minister, Arlene Foster, but what is the big deal about the British Government making that money available? It is not difficult politically to support the Lord Chief Justice - the chief judge in the jurisdiction - to do his job. It is not a political issue that requires detailed consensus among and back-up from the various institutions. At that kind of level, we can see that the will is lacking to do a deal. Going back to our young man, where is the fair society he was promised? The danger is that people like him will be told by demagogues and ideologues that nothing has changed, the Brits are just the same as they ever were and it is time to take up the gun again. That is the reality of what people are being told.

Brexit is another example of the same type of problem. The Deputy might not want me to go on too long about Brexit but its impact is such that the whole delicate constitutional arrangement - the east-west and North-South structures that were put together with great ingenuity in 1998 - have just been knocked over by the proposal to withdraw from the European Union. It may be a question of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again if Brexit goes ahead, but the damage to the peace process will have been done. What people are being told, namely, that they have a future on this island, is undermined by the actions of a Government that does not really seem to care about this stuff.

Mr. Paul Maskey

On the legacy issue, that is something we all hoped would have been resolved many years ago. It is unfair that it has rolled on for so long. At a previous meeting of the committee, witnesses from another delegation, in discussing the legacy issue, stated clearly that their family members, people who had seen big adjustments in their lifetime, were dying before any of these matters had been resolved. In some cases, young people are fighting on behalf of grandparents who died perhaps 30 or 40 years ago. We hope legacy issues will be at the heart of the ongoing talks and that there will be a positive outcome. Both Governments, as well as the parties in the North, have a part to play in this. A positive outcome would help to resolve many of the ongoing issues and allow society to move on. There will always be people within society who find it hard to move on if they do not have some form of justice for their loved ones, whether those loved ones were injured in the conflict or lost their lives.

Ms Peake referred to the ongoing issue of the disappeared. I take this opportunity to call on anybody who has any information at all to come forward as a matter of urgency in order to get those issues resolved and allow families to bury their loved ones with dignity and respect. That call should go out from this room today.

Mr. Gormally noted that the British Government has said on many occasions that it intends to consult victims on these matters. Have the delegates met with representatives of the British Government lately and, if so, what response have they had to the points they raised? Have they met representatives of the Irish Government and, if so, would they say the latter are putting pressure on the British Government, as everybody needs to do, to encourage it to engage? I agree entirely that there is money there within the system, but, as Mr. Gormally observed, the Lord Chief Justice is saying that funding is needed. I was in court last Friday in Belfast where I spoke to people who have lost loved ones. The decision to fast-track some of those cases is very welcome, but five years might still be too long in certain instances. However, at least we have a date set for action and a timeline for completion. Will the delegates indicate whether they have had any recent engagement with the two Governments and, if so, what has come out of those engagements?

Mr. Brian Gormally

Some people involved in our group have had conversations with officials in recent days, where the indication was that consultation is probably going to go ahead. Apparently, the view was that if there is an agreement, then the idea would be for the two major parties, or all the parties, to ask the British Government to bring it forward. If there is no agreement, it will be brought forward in any event. However, we have been told that kind of thing by officials before, so it should not be taken as gospel. It has been a while since we talked to the Secretary of State about these matters, although it was not terribly valuable even when we did.

Mr. Dennis Godfrey

We met the Secretary of State in July when his mind was, as members can imagine, on the broader politics. This is where the whole thing tends to get run into the ground. There is an attitude of, "If they won't do it at the minute, then I can't do it." That causes a difficulty.

One issue to which Ms Peake referred that is doable and resolvable, because we are talking about a finite number of people, concerns provision for those severely injured during the conflict. I refer to the very top category of injuries, which would include bilateral amputees, paraplegics, the blind and so on. We have one such young man of 42 but most of these people are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Most were unable to build up an occupational pension and now fund themselves by living on benefits. One such person is Jennifer, who was 21 when she lost both her legs in a no-warning bomb attack. Peter was 26 when, in a case of mistaken identity, he was shot by a loyalist gang. The configuration of his flat meant that the ambulance crew could not get him down on a stretcher and had instead to take him out in a body bag. As he came out, his father arrived at the building, assumed his son was dead and had a heart attack and died at the scene. Margaret was rendered instantly blind when the bomb which detonated outside her office blew the window panes in on top of her. She has spent years undergoing very painful reconstructive surgery to have glass removed from her mouth. If I recall correctly, that incident occurred in 1985 and, even today, glass that was embedded in the deep muscle tissue still sometimes comes through her skin. Her husband occasionally has to warn her that she needs to change her clothes before visitors arrive because her thighs and arms are pockmarked with blood. These are the people we at WAVE are representing. Paul, who is our youngest victim, was 21 when a loyalist gang entered his home to wait for his next door neighbour to return. When the neighbour did not show up, the gang members emptied a machine gun magazine into Paul. He was left having to use a wheelchair and, this year, he lost a kidney as a direct consequence of his injuries. His suffering is ongoing.

These people are not asking for very much. The quantum would be some €3 million per year, which is not a huge amount of money. We have lobbied and met all the parties, including Sinn Féin, the DUP and Traditional Unionist Voice, on more than one occasion, and they are always good meetings. In fact, it is essentially the same meeting each time because everybody agrees that these people deserve something.

Virtually everywhere in the world where conflict has been resolved, the work has been done by these guys, mostly commissioned through WAVE and Queen's University. We have done research in Colombia and Spain. We keep running into the issue of eligibility. They reckon of the 500 there are ten, six loyalists and four republicans, who it could be said were injured by their own hand, in other words, by a premature bomb explosion or whatever. Therein lies the impasse. Sinn Féin takes the position that everyone should have access to this because it is a matter of need. The DUP, unionists generally and the Government say that people injured by their own hand will not get it. That is where we are and have been. The 490 others, Paul, Peter, Margaret, Jennifer, Alec, Mark and various others, have to wait.

WAVE is saying that it would be unfair to put it on victims to be the arbiters of who should get this. They say they need it. They are not saying who should not get it, they are saying they should. If there is an argument and discussion about others, that is not for them to have, that is a political, moral argument. We are arguing, although it is outside the remit of this committee, that pressure should be put on. Fundamentally, this is a legacy issue.

The processing of a pension would be devolved of course but this is essentially a legacy issue. We have argued with the Secretary of State that at the end of the day the British Government has overarching responsibility for legacy. If the local administration cannot agree on it then it has to be done effectively at Westminster. We are saying that the people who have been injured through no fault of their own should get it tomorrow. If there is an issue there must be a way of getting process, whether that is a review process to consider cases in the round, and we are talking about a relatively small number. Since the group was set up in 2011, four have died. These are people who were injured during the 1970s and 1980s. Their average age would be in the 60s, some are in their 70s, although Paul is 42. We get a lot of sympathy but we would like if any influence can be brought to bear in any quarter to see some resolution for these people because they are all getting older. As people get older with those kinds of injuries, the pain is compounded each year and mobility becomes more difficult. All they want is a bit of dignity as they get older, not a huge sum of money.

Mr. Mickey Brady

Thank you for the presentation. I am just interested in the compensation and pension aspect. The people who are severely injured or disabled rely on state benefits. The younger ones will be affected by the changeover from disability living allowance to the personal independence plan. There have been problems around that. Any compensation with pensions would have to be stand-alone because I am sure they find it difficult to survive on the benefits they already receive. It would have to be ensured that anything extra they get is separate from, and would not impact on, the benefits they already get. The state pension in Britain and in the North is among the meanest in the developed world. It is dreadful. This is speculation that people would, I hope, eventually be entitled to some sort of recompense for the horrific injuries that many have suffered. The disability living allowance stuff will not affect the over 65s but there are younger people it might affect. Is WAVE getting any feedback from the changeover because of the welfare cuts? They are cuts not reform or anything near it. Are any victims or people who were injured during the conflict affected by the changes occurring? This is just another insult to those people who have suffered and continue to suffer.

Mr. Dennis Godfrey

I will deal with the first point first and Sandra can deal with the issue of reassessment. WAVE has worked with Queen's University and academic lawyers there to start to draft legislation. What Mr. Brady suggests is at the core of this, that any money will be additional. It will not count against income or other benefits. Any of the political parties we have spoken to have accepted that as a given.

Ms Sandra Peake

The benefits issue is huge. In the past year, the number of men coming to WAVE outnumbered women for the first time, with 60% of the caseload involving males. We would always have had a high number of men but this related to the impact of welfare reform. We are seeing ongoing problems for people needing sufficient evidence and people who have never tapped into this, who are living with debilitating injuries, coming before the system and struggling with it. Some people have not even confided with their general practitioner, GP, what happened to them. That has been a particular problem. The records do not exist. There is a huge issue. We not only had disability discrimination through the 70s and 80s. There was conflict discrimination. People were not able to go back into work. Now they are being reassessed and are struggling because of that. We see a very direct link between the caseload coming to us and the problems that are happening. The numbers on benefits in particular centres, such as Belfast, are significantly higher than in others.

Mr. Mickey Brady

We are talking about the wider political implications of all of this but people are affected by the day-to-day stuff. I deal with benefits on a daily basis and one of the things that strikes me is that people who do the assessments, particularly for Capita and the changeover from personal independence plans to disability living allowance, do not have anyone qualified particularly or specifically in mental health. I imagine that many of the people WAVE deals with not only have physical disabilities but also mental health trauma such as reactive depression, from the problems they have had over the years. That is an important factor that is often missed. I come across it daily. Some of the people I deal with have been impacted upon by the conflict. They have injuries and mental health issues. We are a society coming out of conflict, we are not out of conflict. That is often forgotten.

I thank the witnesses for their presentation and for the great work they do. I am a little bit aware of intergenerational trauma and its impact, particularly from a mental health and addiction point of view. I would imagine that every family has been impacted in some way by the conflict whether physically, mentally or emotionally. It is a minefield. I also pick up on the witnesses' frustration when they say they have been here before, they have had meetings before. It is hard for people to have hope when they have been going around and around.

What exactly would WAVE like us to do? How can we support it? We want to support it and we would like to hear the witnesses' recommendations on what they would like us to do. Do they have an opinion on, or explanation for, why the First Minister blocked the funding?

Ms Sandra Peake

I had made a note to say that intergenerational trauma is very prevalent and that its impact on the next generation is not recognised.

People present to WAVE from the age of six. How sad. The Good Friday Agreement will be 20 years old next year so such children were born well after it came into place but they live in homes where the impact is evident on a daily basis. I was in a house recently where the children were still locked upstairs at night with a metal gate. Those children are living in a fortified house 19 years after the Good Friday Agreement came into place but the parent is still afraid. There is no doubt the impact on parents affects children. We saw children last year from the age of five and this year from the age of six. That is very young for children to be presenting at a trauma centre and requiring support. Senator Black's point is well made in that regard.

I attended consultations families had with Sir Kenneth Bloomfield in 1998 and then we come forward then to the Bradley-Eames group. I sat with families in WAVE making the case to the Bradley-Eames team in respect of what should happen. We also presented papers to Dr. Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan on what should happen. We are now into the Stormont House phase. We were very disillusioned when the Fresh Start agreement came out and there was no mention of legacy. That was a further hurt.

People struggle. Some people are weary now. People feel they will never get the answers they want. Sadly, we are burying people all the time who are dying without getting the answers they want and families are left behind to deal with that. The Stormont House Agreement needs to be implemented. They need to get it right and to do it as soon as possible. They should not expect us to wait. It is very unfair. Mr. Gormally made the point that we are blighting the next generation and we are blighting the peace process. It has to be done. It is not going to go away. If members think time and mortality will sort it out that will not happen because we are just passing it to the next generation. Mr. Maskey spoke about his grandchildren. The families of the disappeared are a good example. I used to deal a lot with the mothers but there is only one mother of the disappeared left because, sadly, the rest have died. We are now dealing with the siblings and they have said if the issue is not addressed in their lifetimes, it will be passed to their nephews and nieces to deal with. Is it right that we should ask nephews and nieces or grandchildren to deal with what happened? It should be dealt with now. There is a big issue in terms of getting Stormont House agreed and moving and there is an issue for us in the context of providing a meaningful, victim-centred process for the bereaved, something that works for them. Regarding the injured, we ask the committee to do whatever it can to assist them. They need help too.

Mr. Dennis Godfrey

We have had tremendous support in recent years from the Irish secretariat in Belfast, particularly the secretary who has just moved on, Mr. Ruairí De Burca. He could not do enough for us in terms of even opening up the house just to get people in to facilitate conversation. It was hugely welcomed by everyone who worked with him over the years.

Are there any other points people want to make?

Did Mr. Gormally ever get an explanation for why the First Minister blocked the funding?

Mr. Brian Gormally

I do not have it to hand but my understanding is that she publicly defended that position on the basis that legacy inquests are part of the overall package so nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That was the justification but behind that is the idea that there is more than one class of victim: there are innocent victims and there are victims who are not innocent. If that is a legal question, for example, if people were killed lawfully, they were killed lawfully. What one needs is a proper investigation that demonstrates whether or not that is the case. That has got nothing to do with prejudging the status of victims. Unfortunately, I do think there is a tendency to conflate people who were lawfully killed with those who were killed by state actors. Sometimes it is said that only 10% of people were directly killed by state actors but if one takes collusion into account one is talking about very different figures. The term "collusion" is no longer a propaganda term, it is a fact without any doubt. What one has is a political view of what constitutes a victim holding up services and justice for all victims. The pensions for the injured is the most dramatic and disgraceful example of that. On foot of political disagreements about the definition of "victim", nobody is getting anything. That is a scandal.

I thank Mr. Gormally.

Mr. Gormally mentioned the model legislation set out in the documents he passed on to the two Governments in May 2016. Did he ever receive a response or was there ever any update from them after that?

Mr. Brian Gormally

That was on the national security material. We went quite a long way from a human rights point of view to say there are reasons why some information could be redacted - either to protect somebody's life or to protect somebody from serious harm. We went further than many of our colleagues around the world would go in that we said that if there were current and legitimate methodologies that security services use to keep people safe then they could be protected as well but not mechanisms that were illegitimate at the time and which, presumably, are not used now. We put that forward and, from our point of view, it was going a long way towards accepting the concept of national security, which should not be there as a concept. We did not use the term ourselves and yet we did not have any substantive discussion with the UK Government on that. We put it in and we have had some toing and froing but we have not yet seen the colour of their money in a final sense. We saw leaked drafts two and a half years ago which said that any information the security service says should not be released will not be released. There is a ludicrous blanket ban on passing on information. We will just have to wait and see what, if anything, is in the consultation. If one says to victims that in this case there is not enough evidence to prosecute that is fair enough. We would tell them just what happened to their loved one but in the interests of national security we cannot tell them anything even though the death happened 40 years ago. What is that going to do for faith in the rule of law and society?

I thank Mr. Gormally. Are there any concluding remarks?

Mr. Brian Gormally

I do not think so, beyond responding to the question of what we can do. We know the committee does not have the executive power to directly do anything but it is a question of influence. I do not know whether members feel they might produce a report at the end of their investigations into legacy issues but that would be a useful contribution to the process. I do not say it would be a determining one. We would be very pleased to see that.

I thank all the witnesses very sincerely for attending. We are having a series of meetings and, ultimately, we hope to produce a report. Once we have had all of the meetings we will see what actions we will take. We can tell even from the previous meeting we had that it is very frustrating that people are still waiting for answers and for justice. At times it must seem like a hopeless situation but we will do our utmost to assist in any way we can. We have a number of meetings ahead on this issue.

The joint committee adjourned at 4.10 p.m. until 3.30 p.m. on Thursday, 9 November 2017.