Angry families of IRA victims today confronted Irish Republicans in Belfast amid dramatic scenes.

The families, who have lost relatives to IRA terrorists, confronted Irish Republicans today after it was announced that the relatives of IRA terrorists who were killed during the conflict may also receive 12,000 each instead of just the families of the victims of the IRA.

The controversial plans for payout for victims of the Troubles would mean that the family of IRA Shankill bomber Thomas Begley would receive the same for his death as the relatives of the nine innocent civilians he killed

Families of IRA victims confront Republicans after report recommends terrorists' relatives are given 12,000 each

By Niall Firth and Tom Kelly
28th January 2009
Daily Mail

Faces twisted in rage, the pair stood toe-to-toe, trading bitter insults and fighting back tears of anger.

On one side a woman whose parents were blown up by the IRA , and on the other the brother of a Republican paramilitary killed by British soldiers.

The furious scenes erupted in Belfast today at the launch of a controversial report which recommends paying 12,000 to the families of those killed during the Troubles - including IRA terrorists.

Michelle Williamson's parents George, 63, and Gillian, 47, were among nine people killed when the IRA planted a bomb in a fishmonger's in Belfast's Shankill Road in October 1993.

Seething with rage: Michelle McWilliams, right, who lost her parents in the IRA Shankill bomb confronts an unidentified Irish Republican at the launch. The object of her hatred was a man whose terrorist brother was killed by the British Army

Mr Bradley's teenage brother, Seamus, a member of the IRA, was shot dead in 1972 during a British Army offensive in Londonderry.

Mr Bradley, a 52-year-old insurance salesman, told the Mail later: ''I can see her point and I understand that she might be angry and hurt because of this proposal.

'But I think the 12,000 is a good idea. My brother Seamus was killed deliberately by the British Army.

'He was soldier, he was a freedom fighter, he gave up his life for what he believed.
'The money is not a great deal but it is the first formal acknowledgment of what happened.'

Ms Williamson had turned up at the hotel to protest - furious at the proposal to compensate relatives of dead paramilitaries.

'He told me his brother died for the cause,' she said afterwards.

'Well my mother and father died with shopping bags in their hands, they were innocent victims.

'But we shook hands. That does give me a glimmer of hope for the new Northern Ireland.'

The plans for payout for victims of the Troubles would mean that the family of IRA Shankill bomber Thomas Begley would receive the same for his death as the relatives of the nine civilians he killed.

Rival factions square up as the angry clashes marred the report's launch

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who was sitting in the hall of the Europa hotel at the report's launch, was among those targeted by the protesters.

One screamed: 'This is the man who was in charge of the IRA on the day of Bloody Friday.'

Organisers of the press launch threatened to have some of the protesters removed before proceedings eventually got under way.

One of the protesters was the brother of an RUC officer shot dead with two colleagues by the IRA in June 1977.

Hazlett Lynch, from Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, who heads a victims' support group, said he was disgusted by the report.

Holding up a photograph of his younger brother Kenneth, 22, he said: "It is another cynical attempt to rewrite history.

"This report dovetails with the Government's policy in Northern Ireland. It's a disgrace."

Hazlett Lynch confronts Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams with a photograph of his brother, Kenneth Lynch, who was murdered by the IRA

The heated exchanges took place within feet of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde.

Meanwhile Brian Goodman, whose son Glenn was gunned down by IRA paramilitary Paul 'Mad Dog' Magee, branded the plan 'shameful'.

Father-of-one Glenn Goodman was killed on the A64 near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire in 1992.

Magee was jailed for life for his murder but was later released under the Good Friday Agreement.

Families of former IRA members Eamon Collins and the Shankill bomber Thomas Begley could both receive a payout. Begley was killed by his own 1993 bomb while Collins - who tortured suspected IRA informers - is believed to have been killed by the IRA for being a 'supergrass'

His son Brian said: 'I support the idea of compensation to genuine victims of
terrorism. I am not sure whether 12,000 is the right amount but anything is better than nothing, and I can imagine that in some cases the money would be very helpful to widows and their families.

'But as for the idea of compensation going to the families of terrorists who were killed - its shameful. It's an absolutely ridiculous and insensitive suggestion.

'Have the idiots who came up with this gave any thought to the victims? This would be like rewarding the IRA for their evil deeds.'

Democratic Unionist Party leader Peter Robinson has told Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward that the payout scheme had 'irreparably damaged' the credibility of the report.

Shots are fired over the coffin of Joseph O'Connor, a murdered dissident republican paramilitary

Mr Robinson said: 'It is abundantly clear that the Eames Bradley report has failed to garner the consensus on dealing with the past which it originally set out to achieve.

'The Secretary of State is now fully aware that the DUP does not consider such an outcome as set out in the Eames Bradley report as offering any basis for dealing with the Troubles from which we have emerged.

'Their approach not only blurs the line between victims and perpetrators but also ignores the tens of thousands who were seriously injured.'

The 300 million plan also aims to investigate thousands of murders, search for the truth behind controversial episodes, tackle sectarianism and put agreed remembrance ceremonies in place after five years.

Some nationalist victims have said the plan distracts from the real objective of discovering the truth about killings in which security force collusion is alleged, while a unionist relative branded the cash blood money.

Armed Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gunmen emerge fire a volley of shots in the air on the Shankill road in Belfast in 2003

Today the report's authors, Lord Eames and Denis Bradley, who head the Consultative Group on the Past, insisted the 12,000 payouts would be a gesture of compassion rather than compensation or reward.

Lord Eames, former Church of Ireland Primate, warned against snap judgments on the 'challenging and complex' report.

He said the group had spent the last 18 months consulting victims and organisations and added: 'This is too important an issue for instant responses.'

But Mr Goodman said: 'The widows knew what their husbands were doing, and they were being paid by the IRA to do what they were doing.

He added: 'If there's going to be any compensation paid, it should be purely for the families of genuine victims."

And Raymond McCord, whose son was murdered by the loyalist UVF, said the plan was 'equivalent to the U.S. government setting up a fund for the victims of 9/11 and making sure families of the hijackers got compensation too'.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (centre) helps to carry the coffin of former IRA commander Republican Martin Meehan in 2007

Mr Bradley said the payouts were aimed at meeting conflicting demands from victims - some wanting truth, some wanting justice and some wanting simply recognition of their suffering.

He added: 'This is not about compensation nor is it about financial reward.

'It is a small gesture by our society to acknowledge the grief of the families left devastated by the last 40 years.'

The Consultative Group on the Past is an independent body set up specifically to deal with the legacy of the Troubles, which claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people.

The 40million bill for compensation payments could soar to 300million because of the costs of investigating more than 2,000 unsolved murders.

Today's 190-page report will contain more than 30 recommendations on how the Province can deal with its troubled past, with the aim of helping to create a better future.

Mr Bradley said many victims of the Troubles would not be getting the 12,000 payouts.

'Many others have been left injured and scarred, both physically and psychologically, by the violence.

'Their needs are equally important and will be addressed in our report.'

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman said the report's recommendations would be considered 'with great care'.

Asked if Mr Brown backed the payment proposals, he said: 'We have just received this report.

'We will study the report, consider its findings, and reply in due course.