Andrew Young is a Conservative activist who grew up in Northern Ireland and now lives and works in London, where he is chairman of Parkside ward Conservatives in the London Borough of Wandsworth. Here he argues that a definitive recognition of all losses in the Troubles is needed, albeit not in the form of a cash payment, as recommended by the recent Eames-Bradley Report.
In 1993 delivery two men entered a chip shop on the Shankill Road, the heart of loyalist Belfast, and set a large bomb on the counter. In the resulting explosion, ten people were killed and many more buried under the rubble of the partially demolished building - leading to evocative footage on the nightly news of ordinary people frantically shifting bricks and timber by hand to free the survivors.
In a report by the ‘Consultative Group on the Past’, chaired by Lords Eames and Bradley, the families of each person killed in the explosion would receive £12,000 – including the family of the IRA bomber who delivered the bomb and set the fuse.
Predictably in a country that has defined sectarian conflict over the past forty years, the reaction was fierce. Families of innocent victims disrupted the start of the report’s launch, and once more Northern Ireland’s tribal politicians were delivered with a prime opportunity to play to the stands, with angry denunciations of the report's findings or each other.
However, amid the clamour and angry scenes, there remains a grudging acceptance that some sort of settlement is needed to allow Northern Ireland’s fractured community to definitively move on from the endless cycle of violence and retribution.