'We waited 30 years to tell a prime minister what the people have suffered'

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JIM and Anna Dixon said they had waited 30 years for a prime minister to listen to them. Tony Blair did, and then wrote to them saying how the harrowing story of the injuries Mr Dixon suffered at the Enniskillen bombing played a part in his decision to offer extra help to victims of violence in Northern Ireland.

More than 3,600 people have died and 40,000 injured in the current round of troubles. Groups representing them welcomed the report by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield calling for a raft of measures to help those affected. It also helped to assuage a feeling among some that more was being done for prisoners and their families than the victims.

Mr and Mrs Dixon were stopped by officials and Royal Ulster Constabulary officers when they attempted to hand a letter to Mr Blair during his recent visit to Ulster. When the Prime Minister heard about this he broke off from his engagements and invited them to speak to him personally.

Mrs Dixon recalled: " After he had talked to us for about 10 to 12 minutes he said he was being pressed to get on with his schedule.I said we have waited 30 years to speak to a prime minister about what people have been going through here, and could he not spare us a little more time? He left but said he would come back."

Mr Blair did return and the next day Downing Street announced around pounds 2m in extra cash for victims of violence, and set the stage for the comprehensive aid package of the Bloomfield report.

Mr Dixon, 61, was taking photos of his daughter Serena, the headgirl of the local high school, at Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday 1987 when a bomb exploded, causing him terrible injuries. " My skull apparently shattered like an eggshell, the roof of my mouth was blown, my eye sockets disintegrated, and there were many other injuries," he said.

He has been to hospitals "28 to 30 times", and has to go back once more for an operation which will enable him to close his eyes. Mrs Dixon was blown off her feet by the blast and received cuts and bruises. Serena was saved by the person next to her shielding her with his body.

Mr Dixon, who runs a nursing home with his wife, said: "It was a surprise to receive the letter from Mr Blair, but it shows he was listening to us. When we met he was very sympathetic to our views, that he must listen to what the people who have suffered because of the violence, the ordinary people, were saying, Catholics as well as Protestants, and not to the officials."