Presentation on theme: "Trinity College Dublin Victims and Survivors: Focus on Northern Ireland Dynamics of Reconciliation – Week 4 Dr. David Tombs."— Presentation transcript:
Trinity College Dublin Victims and Survivors: Focus on Northern Ireland Dynamics of Reconciliation – Week 4 Dr. David Tombs
Trinity College Dublin ‘Victim’ as a complex and contested term Individual vs collective victims Direct vs indirect victims First and second generation victims
Trinity College Dublin Victims as individuals Each victim/survivor is an individual with individual concerns and an individual coping mechanism. Even members of the same family can react in very different ways to the loss of a family member. However, as a general rule most victims of a conflict usually want some form of appropriate acknowledgement of their loss
Trinity College Dublin Victims and Survivors The term ‘victim’ can suggest passivity and disempowerment. Whereas the term ‘survivor’ is more to suggest activity and empowerment. The term ‘victim’ is often seen as focussed on the past, and the wrong that was committed; whereas the term ‘survivor’ speaks more of the present or future, and the fact that the wrong has been survived
Trinity College Dublin Victims and Survivors as potentially distinct. Whilst the term ‘survivor’ is typically preferred to ‘victim’ for those who have suffered domestic abuse the terms are not always interchangeable when used in relation to armed conflict. When the casualties of an armed conflict are high, the term ‘victims’ is more likely to refer to those who died and ‘survivors’ is more likely to refer to those who lived.
Trinity College Dublin Victims and Survivors Whether ‘victim’ should be used for someone actively involved in armed groups is controversial. Some would use the term ‘victim’ only for civilian or security services fatalities but not paramilitary groups Others would argue for a more inclusive definition of ‘victims’ that includes all fatalities resulting from the conflict.
Trinity College Dublin Typology of victimhood Primary victim – the person who is killed, injured or directly harmed by the act itself. Secondary victims – the family and those who are clearly and directly affected by the primary victim’s death or injury. Tertiary victims – the wider group who are affected less clearly or directly by the primary victim’s death or injury or by its consequence for secondary victims
Trinity College Dublin Typology of victims (continued) Group or community as victim – those who vicariously identify with the victim as a member of their group or community (even if they do not know the victim personally) Whole society as victim - the psychological and social cost to the whole society
Trinity College Dublin A hierarchy of victimhood? Victimhood can often be used as a claim for political benefits in a conflict. In some cases this leads to ‘competitive bidding for victimhood’, amplfying your own suffering and minimising the suffering of those who are against you. This can encourage a negative identity around victimhood and also justify counter violence.
Trinity College Dublin Victims and innocence Individual suffering and individual responsibility will vary significantly between individuals. Nonetheless in many conflicts the gap between guilt and innocence is usually less clear-cut at a collective level. In such circumstances, any attempt to draw up a partisan hierarchy of innocent victims is likely to be highly contested.
Trinity College Dublin Victims groups in Northern Ireland There are a wide-range of ‘Victims Groups’ active in Northern Ireland working with individuals and groups affected by the conflict, some of which are cross-community and others are more single-identity. Kenneth Bloomfield’s We Will Remember Them: Report of the Northern Ireland Victims Commissioner (1998) was the first serious official step in addressing victims needs.
Trinity College Dublin Victims Unit Definition of Victims ‘The surviving physically and psychologically injured of violent, conflict related incidents and those close relatives or partners who care for them, along with those close relatives or partners who mourn their dead.’ Victims Unit, OFMDFM, Reshape, Rebuild, Achieve: Delivering practical help and services to victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland (OFMDFM: Belfast, 2002) p. 1.
Trinity College Dublin Northern Ireland Victims’ Commissioners The appointment of the four Victims’ Commissioners in Northern Ireland has been far from straightforward and in many ways reflects the ongoing divisions within society around such a sensitive issue.
Trinity College Dublin Lost Lives David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney and Chris Thornton (eds.), Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles. London and Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 1999.
Trinity College Dublin Discussion question What do you understand by the words ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ and in what contexts is one more appropriate than the other?