DUP in move over 'victim status'
A controversial attempt to change the official definition of a victim in Northern Ireland to exclude paramilitaries killed in the Troubles has been launched at Stormont.
The DUP introduced a Private Members' Bill that, if passed, would amend the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order of 2006 which does not make a distinction between civilians and combatants who lost their lives in the conflict.
The first stage of the Bill required no debate on the floor of the chamber, but afterwards Sinn Fein lost little time in heavily criticising the move.
DUP chief whip Peter Weir, who tabled the proposal, said innocent victims on both sides of the community would back it.
"Victims issues are amongst the most sensitive areas which are dealt with by the Northern Ireland Assembly and we must remember when talking about victims we are referring to very personal and individual pain suffered by people from right across the community in Northern Ireland," he said.
"Through this Private Members Bill we are seeking to amend the current definition of a victim set out in the Victims and Survivors (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 which allows perpetrators, whoever they are, to be placed on a par with the people they killed or injured.
"It is an issue for the victims of paramilitaries, from whatever side they may come in Northern Ireland and not merely confined to one community. This is about ensuring access to victim services for the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland and it will have no negative impact upon carers.
"Today was only the first stage in the legislative process, coming after extensive consultation which was launched by my colleague Jeffrey Donaldson before he stepped down from the Assembly.
"Everyone wants to see Northern Ireland moving forward and putting our past behind us, but in seeking to deal with the past it is important we clearly differentiate between those who were engaged in terrorism and the victims they created."
Sinn Fein MLA Francie Molloy said the bill was a cynical exercise to exploit the grief and suffering of victims.