Friday, 10 October 2014

Like a mushroom.

"The Trust affirms that Julieann, Robin and Adrian acted in a manner expected of them as representatives of the Trust."

This is a very telling line in a response to a complaint I made against members of the Bloody Sunday Trust in relation to their conduct at a meeting I attended.

Why is this line significant?

What's this all about?

At the request of and in the company of Vincent Coyle and a Bloody Sunday family member I attended the meeting with representatives of the Bloody Sunday Trust and Museum of Free Derry employee on August 19th in DaVinci's hotel, Derry.

I had been asked to attend the meeting in DaVinci's having previous experience of chairing public meetings, and was considered to be someone with no political affiliation. In spite of this, those representing the Museum of Free Derry and Bloody Sunday Trust refused to accept my role as chairperson. So at the request of other attendees I continued to record the meeting, then circulated the draft minutes. At no time did the representatives from the Bloody Sunday Trust ask me not to take the minutes, and at one point point in the course of the meeting Mr Percival asked me to ensure I had taken note of a point he raised.

Three weeks after the meeting the Bloody Sunday Trust representatives refused to accept the minutes as in their opinion they did not provide an accurate account of what was discussed. Bloody Sunday Trust Vice Chairperson, Robin Percival went as far to allege the minutes contained 'serious inaccuracies'. As these were merely draft minutes all attendees were afforded ample opportunity to provide amendments to the minutes, yet despite this Bloody Sunday Trust representatives including Mr.Percival chose not to avail of the opportunity.

Having fulfilled my obligation with regards to recording the meeting I circulated the 'completed' minutes. Following this I felt it necessary to address a number of concerns I had about the conduct of those representing Bloody Sunday Trust during the meeting on Aug 19th.

My initial complaint to the Bloody Sunday Trust

When questions were being asked of Bloody Sunday Trust/Museum of Free Derry representatives in relation to the redevelopment of the museum the Vice Chairperson Robin Percival interjected accusing attendees, including myself of having an Anti-Sinn Fein agenda and of attempts to obstruct the museum's redevelopment. These allegations were immediately challenged and dismissed as the comments were not only untrue but inappropriate and irrelevant to what was being discussed.

For the sake of clarity I would point out that Sinn Fein was mentioned once briefly at the start of the meeting in relation to a request sent to the Bloody Sunday Trust. The request sent to the Chairperson prior to the meeting was for a copy of a paper/proposal written by Robin Percival and presented to the ruling body of Derry Sinn Fein in 1989.

The name of this document was 'The Bloody Sunday Trust', it's also worth noting that Robin Percival is on record as saying that this document was “an attempt to create a broad-based organisation containing members of Sinn Fein, but also others, who were not members. If you look at the checklist in that paper, pretty much everything on it has since happened. It even mentioned setting up a museum to house the archival material being collected, even though back then it was described as an interpretive centre.”

In response to Mr Pervical's allegation of an anti Sinn fein agenda I stated that I had no affiliation to any political party or organisation and advised him of my healthy unease with all political parties. Mr Percival then claimed that I had stood as an electoral candidate for the People Before Profit Alliance. I suggested Mr Percival check his facts as I had not. I still question the relevancy of this inference, as if I had ever been a member of any political party it should be of no consequence to Mr Percival, just as Mr Percival's affiliation or former affiliation to Sinn Fein is of no relevance to me. Personally I wouldn't care if he was a member of the Raving Monster Loony Party!

Brian 'anti sinn fein' Tierney SDLP
SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney is a member of the Bloody Sunday Trust board and recently stood as a candidate in the local government election, so it stands to reason that as a political opponent of Sinn Fein, Brian Tierney has an established anti Sinn Fein agenda.

If Mr Percival was to question Brian Tierney's political beliefs would this be considered appropriate under the Bloody Sunday Trust constitution? Would Brian Tierney feel this appropriate?  If not then why was considered appropriate for Mr Percival to question me? Furthermore I would question what if anything having an anti-Sinn Fein agenda had to do with that meeting or the Bloody Sunday Trust?

Maybe Robin Percival doesn't understand that freedom of expression and the right to political opinions are protected under article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. If this is the case, this is a matter of great concern as Mr Percival is not only the Vice Chairperson of the Bloody Sunday Trust but the Chairperson of the Pat Finucane Centre in Derry and a member of the Parades Commission and should hopefully have an understanding of Human Rights.

If Mr Percival does have difficulty in comprehending basic principles and concepts of Human Rights Legislation then he should evaluate his positions accordingly. Furthermore he should give consideration to how these remarks could be construed as an attempt to demonise those asking questions or as part of a Pro-Sinn Fein agenda.

Over two weeks after registering my complaint I presented the Chairperson of the Bloody Sunday Trust with a copy of my complaint in person. The following day I received the following response which could be considered a whitewash worthy of Widgery.

The response from the Bloody Sunday Trust at least one member of the board knew nothing about!

Additionally my local Councillor and Bloody Sunday Trust member Brain Tierney assures me that he was unaware of the letter despite it being signed from the Bloody Sunday Trust. Considering my complaint was in relation to the conduct of the Chair, Vice Chair of the Bloody Sunday Trust I would ask the following:

When did the full board meet to discuss the issue?
Who composed the response?
Which Bloody Sunday Trust board members were present during this meeting?
Why was the SDLP representative not only unaware of the meeting, but the response I received until I raised the issue with him?

They consider the matter closed, I don't, they may as well have said F**k you, we're the Bloody Sunday Trust! Now go away!

So the bottom line is how can the Bloody Sunday Trust affirm anything when members of the Board were unaware of any discussion and unaware of my complaint.
Generally statutory and voluntary organisations normally adhere to a complaints procedure which they follow and use to remedy concerns or reach amicable solutions to an issue. Not only does the Bloody Sunday Trust not have a published complaints or appeals procedure in their correspondence they state that the matter is 'closed', whether this be to your satisfaction or not.

If there can be one good thing to out of all this, I would suggest that the Bloody Sunday Trust undertakes quality and customer care training with a specific focus on complaints handling and quality assurance methods. I am sure through their various funding bodies they would have no problem this resourcing this.

Then again if the performance of the Bloody Sunday Trust in completely failing to address concerns is anything to go by they'd probably issue a statement affirming they went to the training and found it worthwhile, but in actual fact hadn't bothered their arse and decided it was a tick-box exercise, much like their consultation methods.

It would seem that the Bloody Sunday Trust feel it's best to keep people like mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed sh1t!

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