A RATHFRILAND-BASED group that helped victims’ families of the Troubles has dissolved after almost 20 years.
The Downpatrick Street office of South Down Action for Healing Wounds (SDAHW) will now be taken over by the Lisnaskea-based South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF).
SEFF formed in 1998 on the day of the Omagh bomb and last month celebrated its 20th year.
Kenny Donaldson, SEFF’s director of services, said the Rathfriland takeover will happen from 1 November.
SEFF, in partnership with a local committee from South Down, will then formally launch a new outreach service in the Rathfriland office on Wednesday, 7 November.
The outreach service, which will be named SEFF’s South Down Gateway Service, will be “for the benefit of innocent victims and survivors of terrorism”.
Mr Donaldson said he was saddened that SDAHW had recently dissolved as a group.
“For almost 20 years they sought to provide service and representation to innocent victims and survivors across the South Down area,” he said.
Continued from front page
“We resolved along with their outgoing committee that victims and survivors needed access to support services within the area and we committed to putting in place the necessary measures to begin a new chapter of support provision for those so grievously wronged within that area of coverage.
“South Down is an area which bore the brunt of a concerted terrorist campaign which has left behind a very painful legacy for many.”
Mr Donaldson said the new service will work in close collaboration with other existing funded and voluntary-based local groups including MAST in Kilkeel.
He said this is to ensure that duplication is avoided and that opportunities for maximum collaboration and partnership are realised for the benefit of those they serve.
The Outlook reported in May 2017 that there were fears SDAHW could close due to lack of funding.
The group, established in 1999, faced an uncertain future after its funders refused to renew their financial support.
The organisation was almost entirely dependent on funding from the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) for around nine years.
Several attempts were made to contact a representative from SDAHW to comment on the impending takeover by SEFF, however, no one could be reached.
Mr Donaldson told The Outlook why SEFF has embarked on an outreach service within the Rathfriland area.
He said: “Down the years SEFF has enjoyed a close relationship with individual victims and survivors and families based across the South Down and Lagan Valley area.
“Such individuals share SEFF’s ethos that in the context of Northern Ireland there was never justification for the use of criminal violence in the furtherance of or defence of a political objective.”
Mr Donaldson said a team of staff and service providers will be based in the former SDAHW office and will offer many services.
These services will include counselling and complementary therapies, welfare advice including appeals and tribunal representation and advocacy support for those pursuing justice, truth and accountability.
There will also be a weekly telephone fellowship service, social support projects including respite, classes and seminars.
Mr Donaldson continued: “SEFF believes passionately in the principle of equality of access for all innocent victims and survivors of terrorism and in this regard we are committed to ensuring that services are provided as are required.
“SEFF has a remit to work with innocent victims/ survivors whether civilian or former security force members and their families.
“We encourage victims and survivors formally attached to South Down Action for Healing Wounds and others currently without access to support to come along to our information event on (Wednesday) 7 November from 7.30pm onwards in the former SDAHW offices.”
There will be a remembrance theme with a number of individuals sharing their testimony on the evening, followed with an act of remembrance.