Belfast Telegraph

Victims' Commissioner defends role

Northern Ireland's Victims' Commissioner has spoken out to defend her position.

Kathryn Stone, who took up the post last year, said it was her duty to reflect the voices of all victims and survivors from the 30-year Troubles and not to become embroiled in political debate.

"I must reflect views that some find unpopular or unpalatable," she said.

The Commissioner's comments come after she was criticised for declining to say whether paramilitary organisations such as the IRA and UVF were terror groups.

Ms Stone added: " It is not my role to make legal or political statements or judgments about innocence or guilt; about whether the peace building and conflict resolution centre should go ahead or not; or whether the special advisers bill should proceed or not. Those decisions are for politicians.

"What I can do is acknowledge the deep hurt caused to so many in this society by violence. The Commission completely condemns all violence."

The former charity chief was appointed by the First and Deputy First Ministers last September as part of a major shake-up of the victims sector that also included the establishment of an advisory forum made up of people whose lives have been blighted by the decades of violence.

Ms Stone said she was committed to fulfilling her statutory obligations but would not be drawn into political arguments.

"I am not a politician. I shall continue to fulfil my statutory responsibilities," she said.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, who is among the Commissioner's chief critics, said he had tabled an Assembly motion asking that she consider her position.

"I am outraged by her equivocations on this issue. That is why I have tabled a motion deploring her comments and asking her to consider her position," he said.

The Assembly's business committee now will decide whether or not the issue is debated at Stormont.

Mr Allister added: "The primary objection was that she was not prepared to say if those who butchered in the name of the IRA and UVF were or were not terrorists.

"For someone in her position not to be able to make that moral judgment is a gross insult to the victims of the IRA and UVF.

"The law is quite clear, the Terrorism Act sets out the definition of a terrorist."

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