This week marked 20 years since the Shankill bomb, which killed nine innocents and left many more people bereaved or injured.
They were all victims of what took place that day in 1993 and sadly, there are many more like them throughout Northern Ireland. Only last week I met with a victims group in Tyrone and heard their stories about how they became victims and how they are still suffering today, many years after horrific events.
As an MEP, I am pleased to have been able to help groups and individual victims by raising their concerns in the European Parliament and directing them towards various sources of EU funding. In Northern Ireland, we have also addressed long term underfunding for victims and the Executive has tripled funding for victims since devolution.
As welcome as this is, for many people across Northern Ireland there is an important wrong that must be put right and that is that those who created victims can themselves be classified as victims.
Under the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, a victim is:
(a) someone who is or has been physically or psychologically injured as a result of or in consequence of a conflict-related incident;
(b) someone who provides a substantial amount of care on a regular basis for an individual mentioned in paragraph (a); or
(c) someone who has been bereaved as a result of or in consequence of a conflict-related incident.
This definition makes no distinction between those who were killed or injured as a result of their own actions and those who were innocent.
It means that Thomas Begley and Sean Kelly who planted the Shankill bomb are treated equally to those who they killed. To the vast majority of people this is indefensible, but Sinn Fein and the SDLP hold to this definition. They support equating the perpetrators of terrorism and the innocent victims of terrorism.
The DUP believes this needs to change. That is why my colleague, Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson has introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons which seeks to change the definition of a victim. If his bill were to pass, it would mean that those who died or were injured as a result of their own terrorist actions or if they received a conviction for terrorist related activity would not be considered victims.
This is important. No one was compelled to join paramilitary organisations. No one was forced to plant bombs, take life and injure scores of people. Those who did so did it of their own free will. They should not be considered to have equal status with those innocents who were just going about their lives or those who were doing their jobs as defenders of peace and law and order.
The anniversary of the Shankill bomb reminds us that there was a stark contrast between the nine men, women and children who lost their lives, and the bomber who lost his. They are not the same. They should not be treated the same. And that is why the definition of a victim must be changed