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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Mother bereaved in Troubles sends heartfelt open letter to James Brokenshire

Written by David Young

A mother bereaved in the Northern Ireland Troubles has penned a heartfelt open letter to the Government claiming victims are being forgotten amid the delay addressing the legacy of the conflict.

Ann Service's son Brian, 35, was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in north Belfast in October 1998 - six months after the signing of the Good Friday peace agreement.

The widow said her family has been able to learn no more about the circumstances of his death since the day he was killed.

Mrs Service, whose husband Davy died four years ago, said she does not have time to wait further years to have the case re-investigated.

In the letter, she urged Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to act to ensure stalled mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the Troubles are finally established.

Proposals signed-off in the 2014 Stormont House Agreement - including a new independent investigatory unit, a truth recovery body and an oral archive - are still on ice due to a small number of outstanding political disputes.

Mr Brokenshire is planning a public consultation exercise on the framework in a bid to move on from the impasse.

Mrs Service recounted the night her son, a Catholic construction worker, was shot as he walked home from his brother's house in the Ardoyne.

"When they told me he was dead I just wanted to lie down on the ground where he died alone to be close to him even for a moment," she said.

"I am telling you all this so that you know that Brian (pictured) was a real person because after his murder that's not the way he was treated.

"It was as if he never really existed as a person and that his life and death did not matter.

"The police hardly seemed to bother with an investigation.

"He was dead and that was it."

Mrs Service said she complained to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland but did not expect her son's case to be dealt with for many years due to a well publicised backlog.

"The Police Ombudsman has already said that it will take over 20 years to get through current cases," she said.

"I can't wait that long. I don't have time.

"I do not think for a minute that I am any different from hundreds of others who have not seen anything approaching justice for the murder of their loved one.

"It is three years since the Stormont House Agreement.

"There is to be an Historical Investigations Unit to look at unsolved cases and an Information Retrieval Commission for those who want information rather than trying to get prosecutions.

"Secretary of State can you assure me that Brian's case will be looked at properly this time?

"Can you assure me that they will have the time and resources to do the job properly this time?

"Can you assure all the others who feel they have been forgotten because their loved one's murder made headlines only for a day that their loss will be acknowledged with respect?

"My husband Davy died four years ago knowing no more about what happened to our son than we did when they came to our house at 7am that day to tell us he was dead.

"Please don't let us be forgotten all over again."

In response to the letter, Mr Brokenshire said: "I wish to extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to Ann Service and to Brian's wider family on their loss.

"The Government believes that the Stormont House Agreement proposals represent the best means of addressing Northern Ireland's past in ways that will be fair, balanced and proportionate.

"We are obliged to move forward so that victims and survivors are able to get the progress they have been seeking for such a long time.

"I believe that the next phase is to consult publicly on the details of how the new institutions would work in practice.

"A public consultation would provide everyone with an interest the opportunity to see the proposed way forward and contribute to the discussion on the issues."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) WAVE Trauma Centre / PA Wire.