Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Even as a Euro sceptic I can concede European Union can teach Northern Ireland a lesson about victims

'The TUV is the most sceptical of the parties represented at Stormont when it comes to the EU'
'The TUV is the most sceptical of the parties represented at Stormont when it comes to the EU'

TUV is the most sceptical of the parties represented at Stormont when it comes to the European Union.

This has been demonstrated on many occasions during debates when we have ensured that the better off out message was heard loud and clear. On Tuesday during a debate on EU funding, for example, Jim Allister was the only MLA to make the point that the UK would be much better off out of the European Union during a debate on funding from Brussels.

The fact is that the UK pays £17 billion to the EU and only gets back £8.6 billion.

But even as a Euro sceptic I am prepared to concede that the EU can teach Northern Ireland a lesson in relation to one area – the definition of a victim.

A European Framework Decision on the standing of victims, adopted on March 15, 2001, defined a victim as follows: ‘victim’ shall mean a natural person who has suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering or economic loss, directly caused by acts or omissions that are in violation of the criminal law of a Member State.”

That is in stark contrast to the situation in Northern Ireland where the Victims & Survivors (NI) Order 2006 defines a victim as anyone affected by "a conflict-related incident": thus, equating victim with perpetrator.

Additionally, every year since the Madrid bombings in 2004, which killed 191 and injured over 2,000, the EU has dedicated the anniversary as a memorial day for victims of terrorism. Amazingly given the history of Northern Ireland  this date was never marked at Stormont until TUV arranged the first memorial event in 2012.

In each of the subsequent years the event has grown with around 120 innocent victims of republican and loyalist terrorists attending the event in Stormont’s Senate chamber on Monday past.

As has been the case in previous years three people with direct experience of terrorism addressed the event.

Michelle Nixon was joined by her brother Grant Weir who she still cares for, 35 years after an IRA bomb which left him with permanent mental disabilities, paralysis down one side and epilepsy. Mrs Nixon spoke movingly about how her big brother ended up being the one who needed cared for and the many things he has missed out on – things which we take for granted.

Thomas Boswell spoke about surviving an INLA punishment shooting and his frustration with the services provided to victims by government.

Finally June McMullin recalled the day her husband John Proctor was shot in the back 17 times by the IRA as he visited his new born son in hospital. 32 years later his murderer, Seamus Kearney, was convicted on DNA evidence and sentenced to life. Although he will only serve two years for his brutal crime Mrs McMullin made it clear that the result of the trial was a great relief.

Monday allowed the voice of victims to be heard at Stormont, something which rarely happens in a building where victim makers (like convicted terrorists Gerry Kelly and Jennifer McCann) often dominate the microphones.

The EU does many things wrong but on the definition of a victim and remembering the innocent victims of terrorism we have something to learn from it.

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