If you have tuned into any form of media over the past few weeks, I really would be amazed and surprised if you told me that you had missed the coverage of the arrest (and later release, without charge) of Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams TD.

Adams was arrested in connection with the horrific abduction and murder of Jean McConville in 1972. Jean McConville was a mother of ten and the reason that she was murdered by the IRA is because they had thought that she was an informant for the British.

Now, whatever your views may be of Gerry Adams, he strenuously denies any involvement in this case and claims that he is truly innocent and we should remember that he was also released without any charge, although a file is to be made on him which will later be sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in order to decide if charges will be brought.

Despite all of this frenzy of such a high profile politician being arrested, something more alarming has occurred in Northern Ireland that our media haven’t yet picked up on. In highlighting this however I’m most definitely not attempting to say that the arrest of Adams wasn’t newsworthy, because clearly it was. What makes me uncomfortable is the priority in coverage that he received over the victims and that some victims receive, none of which of course is their fault, it is extremely important to note.

The truth is that even though in recent weeks Gerry Adams has in many ways become the story. All media coverage has revolved around him. Many people may not even realise that while Gerry Adams held his press conference after he was released from Antrim police station, another press conference was held – at the same time – by the son of Jean McConville, Michael McConville  but received very little coverage by the media in comparison with Adams.

In Northern Ireland, victims of the troubles have sadly been used as political footballs, this being a result of the politics which is still incredibly polarised. What this means in practice then is that a few select victims have been used by political parties in order for them to make their political points. Often unionists will talk of the abduction and murder of Jean McConville, the murder of Mary Travers (whose sister now has a piece of legislation named after her), as well as the Kingsmill Massacre, to show how awful the IRA were. Likewise republicans will often point to Bloody Sunday and state collusion to highlight how awful their ‘other side’ were.

Of course I’m not saying that the IRA were not an awful organisation and I’m certainly not arguing that they didn’t carry out atrocious acts of violence, because, put simply – they did. Nor am I arguing that the British Army have clean hands, because they do not either.

What needs stripped back and highlighted is the fact that, behind all of this tit-for-tat denial claiming one ‘side’ was worse than the other during the conflict, it is often forgotten that there were around 3,568 deaths as a result, but despite this, some victims – and it is not their fault – have been used by some political parties to advance their own agendas. ‘Trophy victims’ have been created and are used as a political tool and this is horribly wrong.

If the peace process in Northern Ireland is to progress further, a situation must be created where all victims are treated as victims, as equals, as those who have already had to endure enough hurt and therefore political parties must step up to the plate and put aside their foul political point scoring in recognition of this and act.

For the thousands of families who have lost their loved ones during the troubles, not one family’s hurt should be politically more substantial than all the others, no matter what side of the divide they come from. This is why the issue of addressing victims in Northern Ireland must be addressed equally by all political parties and although it will be easier said than done, they must find the courage to end the pathetic game in which victims are used to score points.

When it comes to pain that has been created by political violence during the troubles, this transcends any political divide and our politicians need to show that this transcends their political agendas.

 

Sources:

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/jun/10/deaths-in-northern-ireland-conflict-data

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-27323078