DCSIMG

NIGEL USES PAINFUL PAST IN NEW VICTIMS' GROUP ROLE

THE son of a murdered RUC reservist is using his experience of Northern Ireland's painful past in his new role as co-ordinator of a Rathfriland based victims' group.

Nigel Lutton took up his new post with South Down Action for Healing Wounds last week, and is already busy using his befriending skills to help victims of Republican terrorism.

His experience includes working with victims through WAVE and on the victim side of things in the office of Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson.

Nigel, who was born into a security force family, lost his 39-year-old RUC Reservist father when he was aged just eight.

"I was a victim of the Troubles through that, so whenever I was at school I always had an interest in helping other people. My first job after leaving Portadown Tech was for Samuel Poots, of Joseph Poots Funeral Directors, in Portadown," Nigel explained.

"As a 17 year-old I was working for a funeral director inside the murder triangle, removing bodies from scenes of shootings, explosions and abductions, as well as ordinary deaths."

Nigel then worked for WAVE Trauma Centre, an organisation that specialises in support for victims of the Troubles. This was a post he held for three years, during that time helping to build up the membership of WAVES, Armagh.

He was then approached by the Northern Ireland Police Fund, based at Maryfield, Belfast and took up a role as a liaison officer, similar to the role he held in WAVE but this time dealing with people within the Security Forces family.

The Loughgall man also served part-time in the Territorial Army for two years.

After leaving the post at the Northern Ireland Police Fund, he was approached by David Simpson MP and took up a role as a victims' support officer as well as carrying out research work for the DUP politician.

trained

"He said he felt that the only person who could deal with victims of the Troubles was someone who had been there and had been trained," said Nigel.

"For three years I was a volunteer with the SSAFA organisation doing Ministry of Defence welfare work for soldiers who had suffered trauma in Northern Ireland."

After three years working for Mr Simpson, Nigel spotted the advertisement for the post of co-ordinator for SDAHW, which is funded up until March.

"Sometimes when you enjoy doing something you take the chance. We have applied for funding for the next two years but only time will tell," he said.

There are many victims groups throughout Northern Ireland - Armagh alone has no fewer than four - while most other towns would be similar.

"When I was working for WAVE I always came across the people from SDAHW at conferences and they are celebrating their tenth anniversary this year. The group has stood the test of time, while many others have come and gone," he said.

"In this area the Unionist population would be in the minority but because of the intensity of the terrorist attack from Newry and South Armagh the majority of victims are Unionist and security forces."

Nigel, who is a qualified befriender, said that prior to SDAHW there had been no support group in the area for victims of Republican terrorism.

"A lot of victims groups are about numbers and head counts - here we are not into any form of head count," he said.

Nigel believes three significant spy-rings - Castlereagh, Stormont and the Royal Victoria Hospital - has left many ex-security force personnel reluctant to use the health service for help.

"In the RVH spy-ring details of thousands of police and soldiers were involved and some at local level stopped attending their GPs and local hospitals. Stormont shook people to the core," he added.

experience

Nigel believes his background and experience gives people reassurance, and he is already taking calls from ex-security force members from as far away as Belfast and Fermanagh.

"They come here for some befriending and to talk to someone they can trust. This isn't about a head count, but quality of service. If you go to a counselling group in your local area some people see it as a stigma that they have asked for help.

"Some people don't want to be socially involved in a group, but they want to be able to lift the phone and get reassurance and help."

When Nigel speaks to someone confidentially, he is able to assess whether or not that person needs to be referred to their local GP for help. If this is the case then he will go with them to the GP and speak on their behalf.

Often the first and biggest step for someone is to open up and talk about their experiences as a victim of the Troubles.

"We intend to work with all the neighbouring Unionist groups because this group does not see other groups as opposition, we see it as part of the circle of help," he added.

SDAHW offers befriending, counselling, classes, social activities and aromatherapy. Opening hours are 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and the number to call is 028 406 31259. The group has stood the test of time, while many others have come and gone,” he said.

“In this area the Unionist population would be in the minority but because of the intensity of the terrorist attack from Newry and South Armagh the majority of victims are Unionist and security forces.”

Nigel, who is a qualified befriender, said that prior to SDAHW there had been no support group in the area for victims of Republican terrorism.

“A lot of victims groups are about numbers and head counts - here we are not into any form of head count,” he said.

Nigel believes three significant spy-rings - Castlereagh, Stormont and the Royal Victoria Hospital - has left many ex-security force personnel reluctant to use the health service for help.

“In the RVH spy-ring details of thousands of police and soldiers were involved and some at local level stopped attending their GPs and local hospitals. Stormont shook people to the core,” he added.

experience

Nigel believes his background and experience gives people reassurance, and he is already taking calls from ex-security force members from as far away as Belfast and Fermanagh.

“They come here for some befriending and to talk to someone they can trust. This isn’t about a head count, but quality of service. If you go to a counselling group in your local area some people see it as a stigma that they have asked for help.

“Some people don’t want to be socially involved in a group, but they want to be able to lift the phone and get reassurance and help.”

When Nigel speaks to someone confidentially, he is able to assess whether or not that person needs to be referred to their local GP for help. If this is the case then he will go with them to the GP and speak on their behalf.

Often the first and biggest step for someone is to open up and talk about their experiences as a victim of the Troubles.

“We intend to work with all the neighbouring Unionist groups because this group does not see other groups as opposition, we see it as part of the circle of help,” he added.

SDAHW offers befriending, counselling, classes, social activities and aromatherapy. Opening hours are 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and the number to call is 028 406 31259.

 
 
 

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